On 5/10/01, my local paper carried a story reporting that the San Ramon Bears Youth Football team, where I coached for six years and where my kids played, was the victim of an embezzlement scheme by its president. The article said $25,000 to $30,000 were missing. I heard through the grapevine that it was $35,000 to $40,000. When the association president was arrested on 12/27/01, they only charged him with embezzling $14,000 because the team kept no records of gate receipts or snack bar sales. Those cash collections apparently never made it to the bank, but the district attorney refused to include them because of lack of a paper trail. The president denied any wrongdoing, blaming unidentified “con artists” for the missing money.

The embezzlement was discovered when checks started bouncing. Investigation revealed that the board member wrote several checks to a member of his family as well as to an auto repair shop, the telephone company, and a number of other people. The association has no vehicles or telephone.

Admissions, snack bar, ATM card

I have heard that the cash proceeds of the gate and snack bar—about $2,000 each home game—were handed to the president, but never made it to the association bank account. I also heard that the president obtained ATM cards for the team's accounts. That enabled him to withdraw money without complying with the team rule that two signatures be on the checks. I also heard that he forged the signature of the other person whose signature was required on some checks.

When we were at the Bears, we heard that players would be eligible for college scholarships. Apparently some players were getting those scholarships. I don't know who. Not my son. But it doesn't matter anymore. The dishonest board member stole all the money in the scholarship account.

Youth-football organizations have annual income of about $100 to $300 per participant. That income comes from:

The number of participants in programs I am familiar with range from about 100 to 2,000. That means the annual incomes range from about $10,000 to $600,000. But the typical association consists of a bunch of parents who don't want to be bothered with the administration of the program and a few who do most of the work. If the few are good people, you can get away with letting them do everything. If they are bad people, your program is going to lose tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of dollars.

Manifestations of embezzlement

There were a number of signs that embezzlement was going on at the San Ramon Bears and in other youth football embezzlement cases I have heard of.

My recommendations:

When I searched for youth football embezzlement on the Web, I found an insurance company that insures against it, but they have a $10,000 limit. There is an article about a soccer coach who was indicted for embezzlement youth league funds at http://www.dominionpost.com/a/news/2000/06/14/000614ax/. The LA Times of 2/27/00 tells of Carlsbad (CA) Lightning Soccer Club president Joanne Wagner who admitting embezzling $7,809 in 1997. She said she was working 60 hours a week for the club and was strapped financially.

Non-profit organizations that take in more than $25,000 a year are required to file detailed returns with the IRS as to how they spent the money. Many fail to do so.

On 8/15/03, the San Ramon Valley Times reported that the San Ramon Bears president who embezzled the money pled guilty to one count of grand theft and one count of embezzlement. He was ordered to pay the team back $14,019, convicted of a misdemeanor, no jail time, and 90 days in a jail work furlough program. Bears officials believe the amount embezzled was double the amount prosecuted, but the district attorney refused to prosecute for missing cash. They only prosecuted withdrawals from the team's checking account.

A father who had read my books moved into our area a year or two ago. He was very excited to learn that his local youth football organization was the San Ramon Bears, which I had mentioned in my books. He signed his son up for the Bears. But he was shocked to find that the Bears were coached by coaches who generally were making every mistake I warned against in my books and who were doing hardly any of the things I advocated. The father was quite angry.

I ended my association with the Bears in 1996. When I was there, a number of Bears coaches used some of my ideas, but no one used them all and some coaches disdained them completely. When I visited them in recent years, they all knew me and most had read my books, but they were doing all sorts of stuff that I oppose. They would typically greet me warmly and say how much they benefitted from my books, then after I watched their practice for a while, I would comment, “What do you mean you benefitted from my books? I see nothing that I advocate.” “Well, we use bits and pieces,” they would explain.

In short, last I heard, the San Ramon Bears bore virtually no resemblance to the way I think a youth football team should operate. They still get challenges from youth teams all over the U.S. to play them. The challenges come from youth football organizations around the country who have coaches who think their approach is better than mine. I don't believe the Bears have ever agreed to play any such games. They probably should not. They have a regular season and playoffs. That's enough. Plus, if they ever were going to play an additional game, it should be against an appropriate local or regional opponent, not some egomaniac middle-aged youth coach from 1,500 miles away. If you want to play against my approach, I suggest you find a coach among my reader comments guys who is relatively near you. Nowadays, there is almost one of my readers in every youth football league. The San Ramon Bears in no way represent my approach last I heard.