TAMPA — Plant coach Robert Weiner summoned his players and staff Sunday evening to the Roland Acosta Field House, a short spiral from the field that likely will someday bear his name, to confirm what had sent a jolt through cyberspace hours before.
He had just become arguably the most significant commitment — albeit a 47-year-old one — of USF's Class of 2013.
Weiner, who led the Panthers to four state titles in his nine seasons, is joining new Bulls coach Willie Taggart's staff, where he'll coach receivers.
"Never in my extensive imagination could I have conceived of writing this letter," Weiner said in a lengthy resignation letter to Panthers players and parents. "But because of the efforts and 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 possible (sic) 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."
Weiner wasn't immediately available Sunday evening, but in a release announcing his hiring, USF said he and the rest of the new Bulls assistants would be made available when Taggart completes his staff.
"We're extremely excited for him, but we'll start the search (for his successor) immediately," Plant principal Robert Nelson said in the school parking lot Sunday evening.
"But yeah, it hits you like a ton of bricks. I could probably sit here for hours and talk about everything he's done for us, and that doesn't even include what he has done on Friday nights."
Weiner's presence represents what could be a local recruiting boon for Taggart, who made it clear upon his hiring he's committed to upgrading the Bulls' recruiting efforts locally.
"It's a huge deal for USF," said former USF fullback Chris Breit, a defensive end on Weiner's 2006 state title team who earned a scholarship from ex-Bulls coach Skip Holtz as a senior last season. "Not only as an offensive coach, but a players' coach."
A 1983 Jesuit High graduate, Weiner spent 15 seasons as an assistant at his alma mater, but had no previous head football coaching experience before arriving at Plant in 2004. He took over a program that had not had a winning season in a dozen years.
"I sat in on the interview when we brought Robert Weiner over here," said Nelson, then a Plant assistant principal. "We came out of there saying, 'This is the guy. No doubt he's going to rebuild the program.'"
Plant went 3-7 in Weiner's first season, his only one that didn't end in the playoffs. In the ensuing eight years, he compiled a 99-12 record with four state titles, five state finals appearances and eight district crowns.
His four state crowns are the most of any bay area coach in the modern era (1963-present). Since the start of the 2006 season, only one Hillsborough County team not named Armwood -- Tampa Bay Tech in 2009 has defeated Plant.
Nationally lauded for his development of quarterbacks, Weiner's proteges include Robert Marve (Miami/Purdue), Aaron Murray (Georgia), Phillip Ely (Alabama) and James Few (Cornell). All led Plant to state titles.
"I think it's great for him," Armwood coach Sean Callahan said. "I think he's accomplished everything here as a high school football coach and I look forward to working with him (from a recruiting perspective) at USF."
Nelson said he'll work with the school district to determine the exact prerequisites for Weiner's replacement. Nelson now has a vacancy on his faculty; Weiner taught English.
"I would like to make a quick decision but not a hasty decision," he said. "We'll be very comprehensive in the search we do."
Times staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report.