TUSTIN, Calif. — A Pop Warner youth football league coach has been suspended after he allegedly offered up cash bounties to his players to target specific opposing players and knock them out of games.
According to the Orange County Register, parents, players and an assistant coach have accused Tustin Red Cobras head coach Darren Crawford and defensive coordinator Richard Bowman of offering their 10-and 11-year-old players anywhere from $20 to $50 for making big hits and injuring their opponents during the 2011 season.
Crawford and Bowman both deny the charges, and the current Tustin Pop Warner league president and former Red Cobra assistant Pat Galentine denies that there was any bounty program.
But the parent of one former player says that his son was given money following a playoff game.
“My son said he had won the prize,” said the father, whose name is not being used to protect the identity of his son, to the Register. “He had a good, clean hit. The kids voted his play as the play of the game. He showed me one $20 bill. He said the coaches, plural, gave it to him.”
Former assistant coach John Zanelli told the Register that during the week before a playoff game against a team from Yorba Linda, Calif., Crawford told his players to target particular Yorba Linda players.
“Crawford was saying, basically, they were going to give kids cash for the biggest hits in the game, and Bowman said if they hit certain players, they would get more money,” Zanelli told the Register. “One was No. 42, and there were a couple of others as well.”
“As the practices went on that week, Bowman in particular would reiterate (the bounty program) to the kids time and again,” said Zanelli.
On Friday, the National Pop Warner organization announced that Crawford and Galentine have been suspended pending an investigation.
“In light of new information and players coming forward who did not participate in the league investigation, National Pop Warner will intervene to further investigate the alleged bounty program in Tustin Pop Warner,” said Executive Director Jon Butler in a statement.
The scandle mirrors the NFL’s New Orleans Saints bounty scandal, which resulted in the suspension of head coach Sean Payton and several of his assistant coaches and players after the league determined that they had offered cash in return for targetting specific opposing players, including quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Brett Favre, for injuries knocking them out of games.