Kids' team hit with bounty scandal

9/28/2012 - NFL

TUSTIN, Calif. -- In a pee-wee version of the NFL's bounty
scandal, the head coach and league president of an Orange County
children's football team have been suspended amid allegations that
players were offered cash to knock opponents out of games.

National Pop Warner officials suspended Darren Crawford of the
Tustin Pee Wee Red Cobras and Tustin president Pat Galentine until
the program can investigate and rule on the allegations, according
to the Orange County Register.

The investigation is expected to take at least several weeks,
Pop Warner spokesman Josh Pruce said.

The Cobras, consisting mainly of 10- and 11-year-olds, advanced
to the Pop Warner Super Bowl last year and finished the season with
a 12-1 record.

A group of parents alleged that during the season, Crawford and
a then-assistant coach, Richard Bowman, offered youngsters cash for
big hits and to knock opposing players out of playoff games.

One boy left a game because of a mild concussion and another
former assistant coach, John Zanelli, claims the player that hit
him was rewarded with cash.

Crawford, Bowman and Galentine consistently have denied that any
cash incentives were paid and Pop Warner's Orange Empire Conference
commissioner, Bobby Espinosa, found no evidence of a bounty program
during a local investigation earlier this year, the Register

Galentine sent Tustin Pop Warner board members an email Thursday
about the suspensions.

"The singular focus of our board continues to be the safety and
well-being of our kids and the continued success of TPW," he
wrote, urging support for young players who "have been placed in
the crossfire of this issue by no choice of their own."

Former Tustin Pop Warner president Mark Gutierrez was named
acting president during Galentine's absence.

The NFL suspended four players after concluding they were
involved in a pay-for-injury bounty pool that ran for three seasons
from 2009-2011 and offered cash rewards for knocking opposing
players out of games.

The players were reinstated after they successfully appealed the
suspensions. New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton was suspended for
the season.