Fullerton Junior All American Bears

The Fullerton Junior All American Bears are members of the Orange County Junior All American Football Conference (OCJAAF). Comprised of twenty-nine (29) chapter (city) members throughout the Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties, OCJAAF is the largest youth football and cheerleading organization in the nation. The Fullerton Junior All American Bears are honored to contribute to OCJAAF's diversity, which makes the Orange County Junior All American Football Conference number one in competition. The Fullerton Junior All American Bears are proud to sponsor OCJAAF's core values of "family" and of "community" - the standards that keep OCJAAF and the Fullerton Junior All American Bears a leading youth football and cheerleading organization. Families come in many combinations and we celebrate the word of "family" as meaning: team, the Fullerton Junior All American Bears, community and the OCJAAF Conference. There is nothing stronger than the spirit in the word of family and you will see it and feel it within the Fullerton Junior All American Bears organization and our OCJAAF Conference.

The objective of the Fullerton Junior All American Bears program is to inspire youth, regardless of race, color, creed, or national origin; to practice the ideals of health, citizenship and character; to bring our youth closer together through the means of a common interest in sportsmanship, fair play and fellowship; to impart to the game elements of safety, sanity and intelligent supervision; and to keep the welfare of the player and/or cheerleader first, foremost and entirely free of adult lust for glory.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pop Warner At It Again

Published: Nov. 9, 2012 Updated: 10:03 p.m.

Mickadeit: Pop Warner clears itself



I'm disappointed national Pop Warner didn't find that a bounty program existed in Tustin, but I can't say I'm surprised. What did you expect? Pop Warner would say, "Yes, our coaches in Orange County conducted a bounty program in which players were paid when they knocked other players out of the game. Parents, please file your lawsuits against us accordingly."?

It doesn't work like that. There are investigations and there are independent investigations.

National Pop Warner's investigation into the Tustin Pop Warner was conducted by an 800-lawyer international law firm that defends Pop Warner in lawsuits. An independent investigation would have been conducted by a law firm or private investigator with no previous ties to Pop Warner and that was instructed to release its own report directly to the public about whatever it found.

This is not to impugn Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP, or its L.A.-based attorney, Ian Stewart, who conducted the investigation. Wilson Elser has a fiduciary duty to be a zealous advocate for Pop Warner. The law firm can't lie, but it has no obligation to tell the public what it found and, in fact, it could be guilty of malpractice and face discipline if it did.

Given that, what the law firm conducted looks more like a series of prelitigation depositions than an investigation designed to tell the public anything useful.

Josh Pruce, the national Pop Warner spokesman, told me Friday that Wilson Elser was selected because "they have knowledge of how Pop Warner works." But how can the firm can be impartial when it is looking out for your best interests? I asked. Pruce replied: "I can't speak to that either way. I don't have a comment."

So, we'll probably never know what Stewart's investigation said, exactly, and why and how Pop Warner came to the conclusions it did about what it showed.

All we know about Stewart's investigation is what National Pop Warner released on Friday, a statement that condensed it to two sentences: "The investigation concluded that there was no pay-for-hits program or premeditated bounty system. The investigation did conclude, however, that one player may have been rewarded for his performance in one game."

Keith Sharon and I know what four players and two assistant coaches told us – the head coach and the defensive coordinator offered money for big hits and more money if those hits resulted in an opponent being knocked out of a game.

We know our sources talked to Stewart. As Keith pointed out Friday in the newsroom, there were fewer people who told the NFL about the New Orleans Saints.

Maybe the Tustin players and coaches told Stewart a different story than they told us. Maybe Stewart or Pop Warner concluded they lied or misunderstood and decided to believe the coaches who say no such offers were made. Did he believe some people and not others? Who? Why?

But Pop Warner would not discuss the evidence it collected or release transcripts or even summaries of the interviews. Stewart had not called me back as of my deadline Friday afternoon.

Still, some inferences can be drawn from what Pop Warner did do.

It suspended the entire coaching staff of seven for a full year. If just one player "may have been rewarded for his performance in one game," that seems like a rather Draconian penalty, doesn't it?

Pop Warner's statement says, "We hope members nationwide will learn from this incident and be reminded that the focus should always be on the safety and well being of our young athletes."

Pop Warner, however, doesn't link the player's "performance" or the "reward" for it with the "safety and well being" of players. How, specifically, does rewarding players make the game less safe? How did it do so in this case? To draw that causal connection would come dangerously close to admitting legal liability.

Reading between the lines, my best guess is that this was the best way out of a bad situation. Don't concede liability. But get rid of the bad actors for as long as you can and hope they stay away.

The most important question is: Has Pop Warner done everything it can to protect kids? Without knowing what people told Stewart, we can't know. All we know for sure is that by hiring a top-drawer law firm to conduct an investigation into its own actions, Pop Warner did everything it can to protect itself.

Mickadeit usually writes Mon.-Fri. Contact: 714-796-4994 or fmickadeit@ocregister.com

Pop Warner Suspends Coaches

Published: Nov. 9, 2012 Updated: 10:08 p.m.

Pop Warner suspends coaches, denies bounties


The entire coaching staff of the 2011 Tustin Red Cobras Junior Pee Wee football team has been suspended for one year, but a monthlong investigation by National Pop Warner ended Friday with the conclusion that though one payment "may have" been made to a player, there was no evidence of a broader bounty program.

Friday's report, which is the culmination of an investigation conducted by an attorney who represents Pop Warner in lawsuits, disregarded the statements of several parents who testified that Tustin coaches targeted opponents, offered their 10- and 11-year-old players cash for hard tackles, and offered more cash for knocking those targeted players out of the game.

Darren Crawford, who coached the 2011 Tustin Red Cobras Pop Warner football team, was suspended along with the rest of the team's coaching staff for a year. The suspensions came after Pop Warner's national organization concluded a monthlong investigation into allegations that the coaches paid players for big hits and to hurt other youth players. The investigation concluded that no bounty program took place, but at least one instance of a payer being paid for performance may have taken place.

"The investigation concluded that there was no pay-for-hits program or premeditated bounty system," said Jon Butler, Executive Director, Pop Warner Little Scholars in an emailed statement. "The investigation did conclude, however, that one player may have been rewarded for his performance in one game."

Butler's statement explained that since rewarding players for performance is against Pop Warner rules, all the coaches bear responsibility for the violation.

Former Red Cobra head coach Darren Crawford, former assistant coach Richard Bowman, former league President Pat Galentine and four other former assistant coaches will be unable to hold positions as coaches or administrators in Pop Warner football for one year. Included in that suspended group are former offensive line coach John Zanelli and equipment manager Paul Bunkers, two of the parents who made the allegations.

Seven families – all of which were represented in interviews with National Pop Warner investigators – have told The Register that coaches Darren Crawford and Richard Bowman offered cash to their 10- and 11-year-old players for big hits during three playoff games during the 2011 season. Crawford, Bowman and Galentine have said no cash was ever offered.

Crawford and Bowman did not return phone calls Friday. Galentine hung up when he was asked to comment about the suspensions.

The ruling confused the parents who made the allegations.

"It's like trying to argue that someone is half pregnant," said John Zanelli, the former Red Cobras offensive line coach, who was the most outspoken critic of Crawford and Bowman. "I think Pop Warner tried to split the difference in order to limit their (legal) exposure and still try to sound credible. This decision was a cop out.

"If there was no pay-for-hits program, then what was the player rewarded for? The best smile? Best attitude? Best dressed? Was he rewarded with cookies or cash? If there was no 'premeditated' bounty program, was it then a hindsight bounty program as we now know it to be?

"If one player 'may' have been rewarded, then why suspend the coaches? Was he rewarded or not? Are all of these parents and kids lying? Who's left to protect the kids if Pop Warner puts its own first?"

Bunkers said: "It's a joke. Either it happened or it didn't. If nothing happened, why are you suspending people? It's stupid."

National Pop Warner spokesman Josh Pruce refused to answer questions about the testimony saying it was confidential and no transcript would be released.

But the conclusion is clear: The investigators did not find enough credibility among the parents and players who said multiple players were offered cash in multiple games. Pruce said he would not answer the question: Did the parents who made the allegations lie?

"They had a predetermined outcome," Zanelli said of the investigators.

The Tustin Pop Warner board of directors released a statement Friday. In part, it said:

"Tustin Pop Warner is pleased to learn that an in-depth investigation completed by National Pop Warner concluded that there was no pay-for-hits program or premeditated bounty system at our League, or any evidence that Tustin demonstrated a lack of institutional control and responsibility ... We are disappointed that National Pop Warner has chosen to suspend members of our dedicated volunteer coaching staff, which includes Pat Galentine. National Pop Warner has advised us that Pat will not be permitted to resume his duties as president of our League during the term of the suspensions. We are saddened by this decision and want to express our appreciation to Pat for his service to the League."

The Orange County Register broke the story of the bounty program on Sept. 23 after four parents and four players confirmed Tustin coaches had targeted opponents, offered cash for big hits and offered more cash for knocking those targeted players out of three playoff games in the 2011 season.

In on of those games, a running back from Santa Margarita suffered a mild concussion, was knocked out of the game and a bounty was paid, Zanelli said.

In total, The Register contacted (some via email or written statement) 12 parents of the 22 Tustin Red Cobras players – seven parents said coaches offered money for hits, five parents said no such payoffs were offered. Four players contacted by the Register (one was through a written statement) said the coaches offered money for big hits.

The allegations didn't surface until long after the 2011 season, in which the Red Cobras qualified for the Pop Warner Super Bowl tournament in Florida before losing in the semifinals.

In May of 2012, one of the Red Cobras' players saw a report about the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal on television (Saints coaches were accused of offering money for taking opponents out of games, and several coaches and players have been suspended). The player told his father that the Red Cobras had used a similar incentive system during the playoff games of 2011.

That father (who is not being named to protect the identity of his son) called several Red Cobras parents, including John Zanelli, who was the Red Cobras' offensive line coach. Zanelli was in the midst of a battle with Tustin Pop Warner because he was the most outspoken of a group of parents trying to form a new team with seven of the Red Cobras' players.

The battle over the new team was ugly. Zanelli received a lifetime ban from Pop Warner after a confrontation with Tustin President Pat Galentine. Zanelli made allegations that Tustin coaches had cheated by allowing an overweight player to participate in several games. He made several other allegations that did not include the bounty program.

When the father asked the embattled Zanelli if Tustin coaches had paid money for big hits, Zanelli said yes. Zanelli told The Register at the time he was reluctant to talk about the bounty program because he considered it a much more serious offense than his other allegations. The bounty, Zanelli said, might bright down the entire league.

In May, Zanelli wrote up a chronology of allegations that included the bounty program for the first time. Zanelli circulated his chronology among some Red Cobras parents. The chronology was passed around to officials in other Pop Warner leagues and eventually was sent to the National Pop Warner office in Pennsylvania.

National Pop Warner turned over the allegations to the Orange Empire Conference (OEC). An investigation was launched, and despite testimony from six parents and four players that coaches had offered money for big hits on targeted players, the OEC found "no evidence" of a bounty program and cleared the Tustin coaches of wrongdoing.

It wasn't until The Register published its story – and the number of parents confirming that money had been offered grew to seven – that National Pop Warner decided to step in and investigate.

The story became a media sensation around the world. NBC, CNN and local television stations picked up the story. Radio stations in Pennsylvania and Florida covered the story. Even the British Broadcasting Company featured the Tustin Pop Warner story in Europe.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Gambling in Youth Football?!?!


DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Authorities said Tuesday they uncovered a massive gambling operation targeting youth football games in South Florida, leading them to arrest nine men, including several coaches with extensive criminal backgrounds who they say exploited kids to turn a profit.

The 18-month long investigation started when ESPN journalists brought Broward County Sheriff's officials surveillance video showing parents openly exchanging money in the stands while watching their kids' tackle football games. Authorities later uncovered the stakes on pee wee games were high, with more than $100,000 wagered on the youth football championship.

Coaches routinely met before games and set point spreads, investigators said, but they do not believe the games were thrown or that coaches encouraged players not to complete a touchdown in order to control the outcome. Authorities said they had no evidence that the players were aware of the bets.
"It's about kids being exploited unfortunately by greedy parents and greedy grown-ups and coaches who were basically nothing more than criminals," Sheriff Al Lamberti said.

After months of surveillance, digging through trash cans and raiding two gambling houses, authorities arrested alleged ringleader Brandon Bivins, known as 'Coach B' in the community, charging him with felony bookmaking and keeping a gambling house. Eight others were also charged Monday with bookmaking and some were charged with keeping a gambling house.

It's unclear if Bivins has an attorney. A phone message and email sent to one of the other suspect's attorneys was not immediately returned Tuesday.

Authorities said the suspects have direct ties to the South Florida Youth Football League and several have extensive criminal histories. Bivins has been convicted of cocaine possession, grand theft auto, and marijuana possession with intent to sell.

According to the league's website, it has 22 clubs and 6,000 players, ranging from pee wee to teens, in three counties. Many of the children come from impoverished neighborhoods.

Emails and phone calls to several officers in the league were not immediately returned Tuesday.

The website says the sole purpose of the league "is to benefit children" and instill wholesome values.
Bold print on the league's website warns that anyone taking bets on games will be asked to leave. "The SFYFL is taking a hard stand on gambling, recruiting, paying kids to play and big hits on players."

Perhaps more disturbing than the gambling operation was the extensive criminal background of six coaches, authorities said.

An affidavit claims Bivins ran a fake barbershop, complete with barber stations and vending machines, as a front for a gambling house. But behind what appeared to be a closet door was a narrow hallway leading to a seedy gambling room where Bivins and others took bets on professional, college and youth games behind conspicuously dark tinted windows.

An informant placed numerous bets at Red Carpet Kutz Barbershop and another gambling front, Showtime Sports, during the investigation, according to the affidavit.

Authorities said they seized nearly $40,000 from a drop safe at one of the storefronts and took another $20,000 from Bivins' home. They believe `Coach B' was skimming off the top of the bets.
"(Bivins has) been to Florida state prison. He's out and he's coaching youth football," Lt. Frank Ballante said.

Bivins was the president of the Fort Lauderdale Hurricanes, one of the most successful teams, and oversaw the coaches. He also interacted with the players, Ballante said.

Deerfield Beach City officials ramped up their background screening process for youth coaches about 18-months ago when authorities told them about the investigation, but each city is in charge of setting its own ordinances and they vary widely on the issue.

Authorities worry that betting on games can lead to violence and other crimes. The gambling bust comes after a Miami youth football coach was arrested earlier this month for punching a referee in the face during a game. In another South Florida city, a coach followed another coach home and killed his dog in front of him, Ballante said.

Those incidents were not related to the gambling busts, but authorities said it's a lesson for cities to ramp up their background check ordinances.

Ballante warned gambling could end "up with a human being being shot over a football game and it's not because their team lost a game or their kid didn't score the touchdown it's because they lost $40,000 on that play."