Friday, December 15, 2017
Colleges

Reversal: Robert Weiner tells USF football he'll stay at Plant High

TAMPA — Less than 48 hours after Plant High School coach Robert Weiner's announcement that he was taking an assistant's gig at USF, the pall over the school remained palpable.

Shortly after 8 a.m. Tuesday, in fact, Panthers secondary coach and social studies teacher Bo Puckett conveyed as much in a seven-word text to fellow assistant T.J. Harrell:

"It feels so weird over here today."

Minutes later, the weirdness proliferated. As Puckett and his peers would soon learn, Weiner had outraced new Bulls coach Willie Taggart to the Frank Morsani Football Complex earlier that morning.

When Taggart arrived, Weiner informed him in "a very difficult conversation" that he had decided to stay at Plant, where he has won 102 games and four state titles in only nine seasons.

"The truth is and the fact of the matter is, (ascending through the college ranks) was never really my dream," Weiner said Tuesday afternoon before cameras, Panthers players, parents and administrators inside the Roland Acosta Field House on Plant's campus.

"My dream has always been — is always — to try to use any gifts that God has given me to impact the people around me the best that I possibly can. That's a pretty simple dream, but it's a pretty fulfilling one. And after about three days or so …I decided I fulfilled that dream every single day."

Weiner's hiring as Bulls receivers coach Sunday was widely praised as a coup for USF's recruiting in the Tampa area. Now Taggart will have to find another coach for his receivers.

The other candidate known to have interviewed, former N.C. State assistant and NFL receiver Troy Walters, accepted the same job at Colorado on Sunday.

"Coach Weiner is a great coach and a man who will continue to do great things at Plant," Taggart said in a statement. "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."

On Sunday evening, in the same field house where he held Tuesday's news conference, Weiner's voice cracked frequently as he read a lengthy prepared statement to Panthers players and parents announcing his departure.

Between then and Tuesday morning, he spoke with his parents, brother and several others close to him regarding his decision. On Monday night, about an hour before the BCS national title game kicked off, he phoned principal Robert Nelson about the possibility of remaining at Plant.

"There is absolutely 100 percent nothing about my decision that had anything to do with (USF)," Weiner said.

"(Taggart) is one of the great coaches I've ever met in my life. And USF is blessed; they're going to have many, many amazing days in front of them. …But in the end, I really thought you just had to follow where your heart tells you to go."

What he didn't follow, he insists, was money.

USF's last two receivers coaches earned $90,000 and $80,000, respectively, and both were the staff's lowest-paid coaches. Weiner, who earns an annual coaching supplement of less than $4,000 in addition to his teaching salary, scoffed at suggestions he was lured back to Plant by wealthy boosters.

"Incredible inane thought," he said. "Not one ounce of truth."

Whether his abrupt about-face thwarts his chances of a future college job, Weiner, 48, is unsure. For now, he's also unconcerned. "I'm completely fine with that," he said.

"I knew how hard of a decision it was for him to do this," said Plant special teams coordinator Matt Walker, who played at Jesuit in the mid 1990s when Weiner was a Tigers assistant.

"Ultimately I think you've got to go with what's in your heart. For him, his heart is at Plant."

Staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report.

Joey Knight can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JoeyHomeTeam.

Comments

Tim Tebow wants to help throw you a tailgate wedding (sausages included)

Tim Tebow loves weddings.He apparently also loves football, tailgate parties and a good brat, which might explain why he’s lending his pitchman talents to a contest that ties all four together.In a promotional video, Tebow asks, "What happens when yo...
Published: 12/14/17
River Ridge grad Chris Schwarz on brink of Division II title with West Florida

River Ridge grad Chris Schwarz on brink of Division II title with West Florida

Two years ago, Chris Schwarz was mulling over his college choices. The former River Ridge High standout had offers from Valparaiso, Florida Tech and West Florida. West Florida?That one baffled Schwarz, mostly because he knew nothing about the school....
Published: 12/14/17
Gators crash volleyball power party, play national semifinal Thursday

Gators crash volleyball power party, play national semifinal Thursday

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s difficult to call a volleyball program that has been to the Final Four eight times an underdog, especially the way Florida rallied to beat Southern California and punch its latest ticket. Yet of the four schools descending on ...
Published: 12/13/17
FSU beats Tulane in Tampa, stays unbeaten in basketball

FSU beats Tulane in Tampa, stays unbeaten in basketball

Published: 12/10/17
Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield wins Heisman Trophy

Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield wins Heisman Trophy

NEW YORK — Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night, completing a climb from walk-on to one of the most accomplished players in the history of college football. Mayfield won a lopsided vote to become the sixth Okla...
Published: 12/09/17
Could Jim Harbaugh soon be known as Willie Taggart’s buddy?

Could Jim Harbaugh soon be known as Willie Taggart’s buddy?

TAMPA — His team was in Ann Arbor, practicing. He was signing footballs in Tampa.Yet another Jim Harbaugh fun fact."I can’t be in two places at once," Harbaugh said.Not that Harbaugh wouldn’t try it if he could. College football’s firestarter, its bi...
Published: 12/08/17

Gasparilla Bowl journal: Temple’s Collins speaks highly of former boss, new Gator Mullen

ST. PETE BEACH — If anyone has an accurate read on how new coach Dan Mullen will fare at Florida, it’s Temple’s Geoff Collins.Collins worked under Mullen as a Mississippi State assistant from 2011-14. He jumped from there to Gainesville, where he spe...
Published: 12/07/17
No. 5 Florida Gators lose stunner at home to Loyola-Chicago

No. 5 Florida Gators lose stunner at home to Loyola-Chicago

GAINESVILLE — Aundre Jackson scored 23, Cameron Krutwig added 14 and Loyola-Chicago stunned No. 5 Florida 63-59 Wednesday, handing the Gators a third consecutive loss. Less than 48 hours after Florida coach Mike White said his team’s performance agai...
Published: 12/06/17
Twitter propels man toward dream of becoming bloomin' onion at Outback Bowl

Twitter propels man toward dream of becoming bloomin' onion at Outback Bowl

No matter what happens on the field at the Outback Bowl in Tampa, the star of the show will be the bloomin’ onion. Not the deliciously crispy, glistening, 1,900-plus-calorie appetizer served at Outback restaurants, but the person who parades t...
Published: 12/06/17
Indiana hoops transplant perfectly at home in Tampa

Indiana hoops transplant perfectly at home in Tampa

TAMPA — Back home in Indiana, he was basketball royalty. He played in his first league at age 2. He lived — and loved — the hardwood life. He was accustomed to performing before more than 10,000 fans for his big games.Pat Bacon capped his storied pre...
Published: 12/06/17