Roseville/Placer News

Roseville football coach cleared of charges but it’s unclear whether he’ll get his team back

Larry Cunha has been cleared of charges stemming from an incident this spring at Roseville High School.
Larry Cunha has been cleared of charges stemming from an incident this spring at Roseville High School. sabeephotos@sacbee.com

No charges will be filed against Larry Cunha, the longtime and highly regarded Roseville High School football coach. However, Cunha’s coaching career is in doubt stemming from the aftermath of his his interaction with a Roseville student this spring.

According to the Placer County District Attorney’s Office, Cunha picked up a student and carried her to a class she didn’t want to attend.

In a news release, the attorney’s office said it “has declined to file charges against Cunha” due to insufficient evidence of battery under Section 242 of the Penal Code. “Our office has reviewed the evidence in the case including all witness’ statements regarding Mr. Cunha’s interaction with a Roseville High School Student.

“The allegation was that Mr. Cunha picked up the student, placed her over his shoulder and took her to a class she did not want to attend. This was the only charge referred to our office on Mr. Cunha. There is insufficient evidence to show that a crime has been committed. Accordingly, no charges will be filed against Mr. Cunha.”

Cunha told The Bee he expected to be cleared by the police and now hopes to regain the coaching post he has held since 1992. He is the region’s second-longest-tenured head coach behind Mike Alberghini of Grant.

Cunha was placed on administrative leave May 1 while the Roseville Police Department looked into allegations of alleged inappropriate misconduct. He remains on leave until the Roseville Joint Unified High School District finishes its independent investigation, according to RJUSD Executive Director of Personnel Services John Becker.

Said Cunha in a text to The Bee, “Although the announcement was expected and positive, it is only the first step in this process. I wish the announcement guaranteed my return (as coach). The reality is that my return is not guaranteed. The school district gets to decide on consequences and if and when I return.

“Hopefully, there will be widespread support for my return based on the 31 years of support and service that I provided the school, our football community, our school, our students and our players.”

In the meantime, Joe Cattolico remains Roseville’s interim football coach.

Cattolico is also a big name in Northern California coaching circles, having led championship football programs in San Jose and in the Elk Grove Unified School District at Pleasant Grove and Sheldon, where he stepped down as coach after the 2018 season.

Cattolico was hired as a social science and physical education teacher at Roseville in May. The plan then was for Cattolico to assist Cunha on the varsity football staff. When Cunha was placed on leave, the logical interim was already in place.

Cattolico said he wasn’t looking to become the head coach at Roseville but he also didn’t want to say no to an administration that needed a coach in a pinch. Cattolico has supervised summer workouts.

“The (Roseville football) kids have been great and the coaches on staff have been great,” Cattolico said. “We’re just trying to help the kids be successful in football.”

Cunha has led Roseville football through championship seasons and long campaigns undone by inexperience and injury. He never wavered. Coaching to Cunha has always been more than wins and losses. It’s about building teams and young men into teammates and leaders. Cunha as long been applauded for his class and sportsmanship as a coach.

It was Cunha’s dream this fall to coach with his son Zac, a former star Roseville quarterback. Zac worked with the Tigers team during spring drills while his father was on leave but has since left the program, frustrated with what has happened.

Roseville school administrators did not immediately return calls, emails or texts to The Bee on Cunha’s status as coach. The school is on summer break.

Said Becker of the RJUSD via text to The Bee, “Larry Cunha will remain on administrative leave until the findings of the independent investigation are presented to the Board and district staff. The Placer County DA’s public statement is not affiliated with the district investigation.”

Football has defined Cunah for decades. He played the sport in high school and college in Montana.

“I have played and/or coached football every fall since 1977,” he wrote in a text to The Bee. “I certainly hope to continue to coach the sport, my coaches and the players that I respect and love being a part of and associated with. I hope that you know and that coaches that have worked with me know, that I always tried to do things correctly, fairly and honestly.”

Frank Negri has known Cunha since the 1980s and said he deserves to get his job back.

A 200-game winner while head coach at Foothill and Natomas, Negri was an assistant under Negri for five seasons earlier this decade. He is now an assistant at Rio Linda.

“Larry’s as clean of a coach, as good of a person and coach as you’ll ever find,” Negri said of Cunha. “He’s the most up-and-up, truthful, and morally upright coach as you’ll find. A lot of coaches bend the rules, some cheat, but Larry has always done it the right way.

“If there are no charges, then Larry should get his coaching job back. He deserves that right. It upsets me. But there are no guarantees in high school coaching, and no one has a locked-in contract to coach. You can be let go just like that.”

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