Accusations that an Orange County coach of 10- and 11-year-old boys paid his athletes to knock out opposing players were refuted on Monday by the National Office of Pop Warner.
The Tustin Cobras range in age from 5 to15 years old, and are all part of the same Pop Warner league. The players are called “midgets,” and according to the Cobras website, they can weigh up to 170 pounds.
"They get pretty physical out there, that’s the sport, they’re playing football," said parent Tony Salcedeo.
The team’s coach was accused of offering players cash, like a bounty, if they were successful in knocking out opposing teams. An attorney for coach Darren Crawford says his client may have been aggressive, but he didn’t dole out money for hits.
"Mr. Crawford has stated he may have made errors in judgment unrelated to a bounty program and is willing to make any amends possible to make himself a better coach," said attorney Jeoffrey Robinson.
The president of the Tustin league says he took the allegations to a governing board. The National Office of Pop Warner released the following statement:
"A full investigation was conducted by the Orange Empire Conference in regards to the alleged incident in Tustin, CA. Following a hearing, it was determined that not enough evidence was found to prove a bounty system had been put in place by the coaches. At this time, the incident is considered a closed matter, however the Orange Empire Conference will reopen the investigation if necessary."
Other Pop Warner coaches tell NBC4 no parent wants to put his or her child in a dangerous situation, and that the rough and tumble world of football needs to be balanced with competition.
"I’m hoping if nothing else that these accusations will help all of us to focus on what we say to young kids, how we try to motivate them, and what can we do to make sure they play safely themselves," Robinson said.