Harry Welch slipped a tackle from the Orange County District Attorney on Thursday when it announced that it would not charge the Santa Margarita High football coach with assault.
The county sheriff had been investigating Welch because of an anonymous third-part tip that was received by the school via e-mail. Sheriff spokesman Jim Amormino said the coach was alleged to have "pushed or shoved" a player, although neither the victim nor his family wanted to file a complaint.
The incident took place Dec. 13, three days before the Pac-5 champion defeated San Jose Bellarmine, 42-37, for the CIF State Division I Bowl Championship.
"Based on a thorough review of all the evidence and the law, we believe that we can't prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt and that a jury would not return a guilty verdict," said Farrah Emami, spokeswoman for the district attorney's office.
Welch, who has been on paid administrative leave since Friday, remains on leave by decree of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange because it and the school are still conducting their investigation, said diocese spokesman Stephen Bohannon.
Bohannon said he didn't know how long the investigation would take to complete, but they want to be thorough "to make sure everything is covered."
Santa Margarita had been 3-7 each of the two seasons before Welch was hired, but the program went 9-3 in 2010 and 13-2 in 2011. Welch himself has had extraordinary success, guiding three different teams to state bowl championships in six seasons, and he has coached teams to victory in 28 of his last 29 playoff games.