Kids—10- and 11-year-old kids—allegedly getting paid for whatever the Pop Warner equivalent of knockouts and cart-offs are. Yeah. "Kill the head and the body will grow up feeble and addled." The going rate for successfully concussing a tween? Between $20 and $50. Christ, society.
Don't even think this is a case of youth football imitating the NFL. Coaches for the Pop Warner Red Cobras of Tustin, Calif., allegedly began offering bounties for targeting specific opposing players months before news of the Saints scandal broke, according to the Orange County Register. Implicated are head coach Darren Crawford and defensive coordinator Richard Bowman, who both claim innocence. But six parents, four players, and one assistant coach have come forward with evidence that the coaches offered money for hits along the way to the Red Cobras' appearance in the Pop Warner Super Bowl.
[Former assistant coach John] Zanelli and two of the players said the first mention of money came during a team huddle near the end of football practice on Monday, Oct. 24, 2011.
When Crawford first mentioned he would pay money for big hits and knocking opponents out of games, many of the Tustin Red Cobras shouted excitedly, energized by the prospect of earning cash, the players said.
"We were like, 'OK! We're going to go hit them! Wow!'" one player said. A second player said, "When we were after practice, getting our gear off, we were guessing who was going to get the money."
That week the Red Cobras were preparing for their second playoff game of 2011. They would be facing a good team from Yorba Linda. During that week's practice, Crawford told the players to target particular players on the Yorba Linda team.
During an Oct. 27 film session at Crawford's house, Crawford explained how the winners of the cash would be determined, three players said. Crawford told the team that they could all vote, and the player with the most votes would get money. Crawford told them the most money could be won if the opponents' best player had to leave the game, they said.
In another game, the voting system was bypassed altogether, after it became clear who deserved the cash: the Tustin player who laid out another team's star running back.
Reggie Scales, the father of the injured player, was one of the coaches who went on the field to help. Scales said the doctor diagnosed his son with a mild concussion, and the boy did not return to the game. Scales said his son had headaches for more than a month after the hit.
"This kid speared him. Hit him right in the head," Scales said. "It was a helmet-to-helmet hit."
After the game, the Tustin players didn't vote for the best hit. As coaches and kids walked to the postgame awards ceremony, Zanelli said he saw Crawford give money directly to the player who made the game's big hit.
Yesterday, the national Pop Warner organization suspended Crawford and the Tustin league president, "in light of new information."
Photo via Flickr