09/26/2012 08:16 pm ET Updated Sep 27, 2012

Tustin Cobras Bounty Program? Pop Warner Football Coaches Allegedly Paid Players To Injure Opponents

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When the Saints' bounty scandal broke there were many who stated that such intentional violence was endemic to the NFL long before defensive coordinator Gregg Williams ever set foot in New Orleans. For evidence those who still need convincing of just how pervasive these practices are in organized football, look no further than a Pop Warner team in Southern California facing a bountygate of its own.

According to the Orange County Register, a former assistant coach of the Tustin Red Cobras accused other members of the team's coaching staff of paying 10- and 11-year-old players for big hits and injuring players. Per the OCR report, then-assistant John Zanelli and three players interviewed said that the bounties began four months before the Saints' scandal broke. Maybe these coaches heard about the practice from Buddy Ryan.

Cobras head coach Darren Crawford, assistant coach Richard Bowman and Tustin league officials denied the accusations to the Register. However, Crawford's attorney Jeoffrey Robinson told NBC 4 in Southern California that his client "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."

The Orange Empire Conference Commissioners also denied the accusations, as reported by

"We have conducted an independent investigation and held hearings with a panel of OEC Commissioners," Steve McGinnis of the OEC said, via "The Orange Empire Conference came to the conclusion that the statements being made regarding a 'Bounty System' were either unfounded or over stated."

Potentially contradicting those findings, a parent told the Register that his son received a $20 bill from his coaches after his teammates voted that his big hit was the "play of the game" in a contest in November 2011.

If the accusations are true, such behavior would certainly go against the principles of the Tuscan Cobras as laid out on the team's official website.

The mission of Tustin Pop Warner Football & Cheer is to enable children to benefit from participation in team sports and activities in a safe and structured environment. Through this active participation, Pop Warner programs teach fundamental values, skills and knowledge that children will use throughout their lives.



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