OMAHA, Neb. — Carl Pelini said Friday during a radio interview that his firing at Florida Atlantic last year was unjustified and the result of a new athletic director who wanted to hire his own football coach.
"There is nothing I did there that I’m embarrassed about. I’m proud of what we accomplished," Pelini said on KFAB, the Omaha-based flagship station of the network that broadcasts Nebraska football.
Pelini was defensive coordinator at Nebraska for his younger brother, Bo Pelini, from 2008-11. Florida Atlantic was his first head coaching job.
Carl Pelini was 5-15 over two seasons with the Owls when athletic director Pat Chun announced on Oct. 30 that Pelini and defensive coordinator Pete Rekstis had resigned after Chun confronted both men about reports of their alleged use of illegal drugs.
Pelini denies he used illegal drugs, though a member of his FAU staff assisted the school’s investigation by writing an affidavit claiming to have personally witnessed him using marijuana and cocaine.
Pelini later asked that the resignation be withdrawn, and that request was granted on Nov. 26 when Florida Atlantic changed the resignation to a firing. FAU said it had cause to dismiss Pelini because he failed to report certain conduct of a staff member. The letter notifying Pelini of his firing did not cite drug use as a reason for the firing.
"Ultimately, I think it boiled down to an athletic director who didn’t hire me," Pelini said in the radio interview. "We were making improvements. He came down there from Ohio State. He was their No. 1 fundraiser and made a lot of promises about money he was going to raise and changes we were going to make facilities-wise. He was not having a lot of success and we were growing as a football program. I think he wanted to hitch his reins to a new horse and get some credit for it and wanted to make a change."
Chun did not immediately respond to messages left at his office. FAU spokeswoman Katrina McCormack said Chun has generally not commented on Pelini.
Pelini said he regretted his initial decision to resign from FAU. He said Chun did not accurately describe the circumstances around his resignation and firing.
"I trusted him," Pelini said. "He looked at me over the desk and said, `If you sign this paper, I will take care of you. I’ll explain what went down. We want to be clear about why you resigned.’ And then he wasn’t. He went back on his work and it really disappointed me."
Pelini has moved back to Nebraska and said he is taking the year off from coaching.
"Certainly I haven’t been perfect and made a lot of mistakes," he said. "One thing I’ve never done is try to step on someone else to better myself or to better my situation. And I felt like that’s what Pat Chun did."
Coincidentally, Nebraska opens this season at home Aug. 30 against Florida Atlantic, which is now coached by Charlie Partridge.