San Clemente football coach Eric Patton, who has been on paid administrative leave since mid-August as district officials probe his spending of school money with a sporting equipment company, has resigned, Tritons athletic director Jon Hamro announced Monday.
San Clemente’s e-mailed release stated:
“Eric Patton has officially resigned as Head Football Coach at San Clemente H.S. The search for a permanent replacement is currently being conducted from within.”
Hamro served as San Clemente’s interim coach this past season, guiding the Tritons to a runner-up finish to Santa Margarita in the CIF-SS Pac-5 Division.
Patton’s resignation arrives as the Capistrano Unified School District’s board is expected tonight to continue closed-door discussions into what are widely believed to be disciplinary proceedings against Patton, former Capistrano Valley coach Chi Chi Biehn and former Dana Hills coach Brent Melbon.
Here is what Patton said in an email about his resignation Monday afternoon:
I resigned as head football coach at San Clemente High School on January 30, 2012. I contacted both Jon Hamro, athletic director and interim head coach at SCHS, and George Duarte, principal at SCHS, on that date to resign effective immediately. I also contacted Mark Klein, former president of the Triton Touchdown Club, and Tom Donnelly, the current president, so that they could move forward with plans for next football season. I had planned for a long time to resign at the end of the 2011 season. I had discussed my resignation many times with my staff, including Jaime Ortiz and Joe Wood, and with Jon Hamro and George Duarte. I had been head coach at San Clemente for over 12 years – longer than any other head football coach in the district by many years, and before being head coach at San Clemente, I was head coach for many years at Capistrano Valley High School. It was time to step down. I had wanted to finish with this class because several years previously I had promised a mother of one of my players that I would finish my tenure as head coach with her son, and it just seemed like good timing. I have always had as a goal not to announce in a public fashion my retirement from coaching before the end of the season in order not to distract from the team’s accomplishments. I have always felt that it was proper etiquette to retire after the end of the season banquet. The SCHS football banquet was held on January 23rd – one week prior to my official resignation. My resignation was intended to enable the SCHS football program to move forward and select a new head coach or to continue with Jon Hamro as head coach. I wanted closure and finality for the good of the team, the staff, the parents, the program, and the school. The worst possible situation is state of uncertainty in which no plans could be made and no one would know who was going to be in charge. I do not know why school officials allowed nearly a whole month to elapse before making the news public. I just want to be clear that my decision to step down was made months prior to the 2011 season.
The school district investigations are centered on personal spending accounts that the coaches allegedly maintained with Lapes Athletic, allowing them to convert school district funds into personal credits that they could then spend as they saw fit, without district oversight.
Patton was just one of several coaches across Orange County and Southern California who have been investigated for their personal spending accounts with Lapes. The Capistrano district turned over its findings to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
Patton has acknowledged that he maintained a personal spending account with the now-defunct Laguna Hills-based Lapes Athletic Team Sales and tapped into it to pay for team-related purchases. Patton said he didn’t use the account, which existed before his arrival at San Clemente, for personal benefit.
Patton coached the Tritons for 12 seasons, starting in 1999.