January 8, 2013TAMPA — Robert Weiner reversed course Tuesday, leaving an assistant coaching position at the University of South Florida and choosing to remain at Plant High School, where he has won four football state championships in nine seasons.It was the latest twist in a bizarre few days for Weiner.On Sunday, Weiner accepted Willie Taggart’s offer to become USF’s receivers coach and flew home from a coaching convention in Nashville, Tenn. That night, he bid an emotional farewell to his players and their parents in Plant’s football field house.On Monday, he was on the job for USF.
On Tuesday, he was back at Plant.
Weiner, who on Sunday called it “the most difficult decision of my life,” said he consulted with 10 key people in his life. They included his parents and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy, whose son, Eric, played for the Panthers.
Clearly conflicted, though, Weiner ultimately went with his heart. Weiner, 48, was scheduled to fully address his decision-making process Tuesday afternoon.
First-year USF coach Willie Taggart must move on.
“Coach Weiner is a great coach and a man who will continue to do great things at Plant,” Taggart said in a statement released by USF. “We knew pulling him away from the young men in the Plant program would be very difficult for him, and we wish him continued tremendous success moving forward.”
Weiner’s connections to Tampa high schools were expected to be a boon for USF’s local recruiting efforts. His high school colleagues described Weiner’s initial move as “win-win” because he could enter the college coaching ranks without leaving Tampa.
Weiner made it clear he wasn’t making the move for more money. He wondered, too, if he was abandoning his true calling in departing the high school ranks, where he influenced impressionable teenagers.
Plant Principal Robert Nelson said he was “extremely excited” about Weiner’s return.
“He’s more than a coach,” Nelson said Sunday. “He’s a great teacher. He cares about these kids. He helps get them scholarships, oversees their mentoring and tutoring. He has built a solid program.”
Weiner also had built a solid relationship with Taggart, once a quarterback at Bradenton’s Manatee High School. As an assistant coach at Stanford University, Taggart recruited Plant quarterback Aaron Murray, who eventually decided on Georgia.
Taggart maintained his Plant recruiting presence during three seasons as Western Kentucky University’s head coach.
Taggart had casual talks about bringing Weiner onto his college staff. When Taggart was hired at USF, the fit for Weiner seemed perfect.
But the pull was too great at Plant, where Weiner is 102-19 in nine seasons. Thirty-nine of his players have been first-team selections on the Tampa Tribune’s All-Hillsborough County teams. He coached three Tribune players of the year – Robert Marve, Murray and James Wilder – while four times being named county coach of the year.
Taggart, who was hired Dec. 8 by USF, is still seeking five full-time assistant coaches, including the key position of defensive coordinator.
Taggart retained offensive assistant Larry Scott from Skip Holtz’s staff. He hired three assistants from WKU – defensive assistant Raymond Woodie, offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Walt Wells and quarterbacks coach Nick Sheridan.