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.
“ALWAYS A LINK”
Dear Plant Panthers:
It is with great excitement that I have accepted a position as the wide receiver coach at the University of South Florida, effective immediately. It is also with profound heartache that I am leaving my position as the father of the Plant High School Panthers Football Family. Never in my extensive imagination could I have conceived of writing this letter. But because of the efforts, talents and hearts of so many, I have been afforded an opportunity to pursue coaching on the college level.
I became a teacher and coach so that I could possibly make a positive impact upon people that mean the world to me and upon people that I love so dearly. I hope I have done that in some small way. However, what I have found in the process is that I have been impacted and blessed 100 fold by those very same people. I have been lifted up in times of difficulty; I have been supported in moments of challenge; I have been thrilled in many moments of celebration; and most of all I have been inspired by each of you to use all of God’s gifts to be the best I can be for the sake of others. I have ultimately learned that there is “Strength Through Unity” in a bond, a link, that will never be broken.
Many will point to the championships and the many triumphs as we mark this time. I will remember the relations and the people. Life is about the relationships we make and I will forever cherish mine here at Plant.
I would like to thank Mary Ellen Elia, the Hillsborough County School Board, Lanness Robinson, and all in the School District of Hillsborough County for entrusting me in my position as a teacher and a coach. I would like to thank Eric Bergholm for hiring me and Rob Nelson, Laura Figueredo, Gina Fonseca, and all Plant administration for all of their amazing support in our shared mission to educate our young people. No one could ask for a better administration. I would like to thank my colleagues in the classroom for their amazing work and tireless, sometimes thankless, dedication for our students and their contributions to our program. I would like to thank our South Tampa community for the backing our “Boys of Fall” in so many ways.
Most dear to my heart, I can never offer enough gratitude to the parents and families of our players. You have never said “no” when asked to support our program in a way that is good for everyone. I have always had great expectations and amazing aspirations for our team and our players. But our families have always, and I mean always, answered the call in a championship way. It is no mistake why we have such incredible kids in our program; it is because the apple does not fall far from the tree. Furthermore, none of what we have accomplished at Plant could have been done without my coaches and the spouses. I would not allow just anyone to coach and influence our players. So I chose the best men, the best mentors, the best coaches in the world. They are my best friends for life and that will never change. My devoted loyalty to you will never end.
Finally, there are really no words that could express my feelings for my players, past and present. I love you all from the bottom of my heart. You have given me and our program everything you have – your heart and soul. I have tried my best to always give you that in return. As I have always said, there are many things I cannot promise, but the one commitment I can make is that you have a best friend for life in Robert Weiner. I will always do anything for you in your best interest in my power. That is true now, and that is true until the end of time. In challenging times and in moments of glory, I am always here for you, never more than a phone call away. There is a spot in my heart carved out for each one of you forever. ALWAYS A LINK!
Go Panthers!! Go Bulls!!
Many blessing always.
Yours always in Faith, Hope, and Love:
Coach Robert J. Weiner