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California coaches finally fired for serious drug charges

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Perhaps it was bound to happen. Less than two weeks after it leaked out that two Santa Margarita (Calif.) Catholic High assistant football coaches were allowed to coach throughout the 2011 season despite pleading guilty to marijuana possession charges, the two men were finally fired in the final days of the year amidst a maelstrom of controversy and enduring questions about the leadership of the program.

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Santa Margarita assistant football coach Scott Coen

Santa Margarita assistant football coach Scott Coen

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Sean Coen -- pictured at right -- and Robert Hendricks, both of whom served as assistant football coaches for the CIF Division 1 bowl champion Santa Margarita squad, were fired on Thursday after the school completed an internal investigation into the conduct of the two coaches.

The school announced the dismissals on its website, citing the failure of the two men to fully disclose the circumstances around their marijuana arrest as the reason for their termination.

"In our internal investigation we found that sound judgment was not exercised by either man in allowing marijuana to be grown in their garage," the school statement read. "When one is charged with the responsibility of working with teenagers who are constantly in a society where the temptation of marijuana is prevalent, these coaches had a responsibility to utilize sound judgment.

"Mr. Coen and Mr. Hendricks had every opportunity prior to and after September 15th to inform their head coach, the athletic administration or the school's administration of the facts surrounding their case and neither did so."

The firings close a rather sordid chapter of a storied Southern California football coaching career. The two assistants worked for the past two seasons under legendary coach Harry Welch, who has helped build and re-build a number of programs in the Los Angeles area. Welch stood up for the two assistants just days before their dismissal, saying that they were employees and coaches in good standing despite their drug-related arrest.

That status appeared to change after it became clear that Coen and Hendricks' level of involvement in a marijuana production scheme went beyond the simple possession charges they were cited for. While the loss of the two assistant coaches may help temporarily appease critics of the program, focus is now likely to shift to Welch, with questions of how much the longtime football head man knew about his assistants' drug charges -- and when he knew them -- likely to dog the program into the offseason.

Interestingly, Santa Margarita wasn't even the only Southern California Catholic school forced to deal with fallout from the drug bust; San Juan Capistrano (Calif.) St. Margaret's School also fired an assistant coach who was allowed to continue throughout the 2011 season for his involvement in the case. According to the Los Angeles Times, St. Margaret's assistant Charles Spann was fired on Dec. 5, just three days after school officials learned he had been arrested on drug charges related to marijuana possession at the same house he shared with Coen and Hendricks.

According to the Orange County Register, Spann had already been arrested on a previous charge of possession of a controlled substance, a count related to an incident in which police caught the assistant driving with a fake license in possession of the pain medication vicodin.

That rapid decision by St. Margaret's strikes a very different tone than the considered approach taken by Santa Margarita. Which approach was more appropriate may now lie mostly in the eyes of those surrounding the programs themselves.

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