Jeremy Earle resigned as Jefferson football coach on Monday, which ended his 13-year run as a coach at the school. He started in 2005 as a quarterbacks coach and took over as head coach in 2011.
It was a tumultuous season for Earle and the Dragons. He was suspended for three games in September when it was discovered he had a current player living with him during the summer. According to files obtained by the Tampa Bay Times from the Hillsborough County School District and the Florida High School Athletic Association, the player lived with Earle from mid-May until the end of August.
Under FHSAA guidelines, it is an impermissible benefit to allow a student-athlete to reside with a staff member. The school was fined a total of $2,600, however, $2,250 will be held in abeyance until June 30, 2018. Jefferson must pay a total of $350 ($250 for illegal residence and $100 for use of an ineligible player in a game). If there are no more violations between now and June 30, Jefferson will not pay an additional fine.
Additionally, Earle was fined $5,000 for violating the FHSAA's recruiting policy.
While Earle was suspended, Jefferson was involved in a bench-clearing fight against Middleton on Sept. 28 that resulted in the game being suspended in the third quarter. According to FHSAA public relations specialist Kyle Niblett, that incident is separate from the residence violation and will not trigger another fine.
The player in question only played in the Dragons' preseason game. If the player is an underclassman, then he must sit out until Aug. 31, 2018. His name was redacted in the reports.
Earle sent a letter to the Hillsborough County School District explaining the situation. In it he described the living conditions of the player and felt he needed to provide a place for the student-athlete to live until conditions improved. He said he knows now that was not the right decision.
"It was a tough situation to be in," Earle said. "When you have the opportunity to meet someone's needs, and they definitely have needs, at the time I thought it was the right thing to do. Obviously, in retrospect I should have handled it differently. That's why I had to sit out my punishment."
Earle will remain at the school as a driver's education teacher. He said he plans to continue coaching high school in the future. For now, he said he will coach his son's 9-year-old flag football team.
Jefferson principal Robert Quinn said Earle's resignation had nothing to do with his three-game suspension.
"He stepped down in order to spend more time with his family and that is something we certainly understand," Quinn said. "We thanked him for all the things he's done and the time he spent with our students. Now we're moving forward and trying to find the next head coach at Jefferson High School."
Quinn said he hopes to have a replacement before the winter break.
Earle was 48-27 in his seven years, including the three games he did not coach this season.