Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Land O'Lakes coach Schmitz, 59, dies

Bill Schmitz

Bill Schmitz

Land O'Lakes boys track coach and former Jesuit head football coach Bill Schmitz died Monday in an apparent suicide. He was 59.

Mr. Schmitz drove his car to the center of the Sunshine Skyway bridge early Monday morning, according to the Hills­borough County Sheriff's Office. Just before 5 a.m., he leapt from the side of the railing. Authorities found his body four hours later.

Mr. Schmitz came to Tampa Bay a decade ago after a winding coaching career. He made at least 13 stops, from Columbia and Vanderbilt to Austin Peay and Europe's London Monarchs.

Jesuit hired him in 2003 to replace veritable icon Dominick Ciao, passing over — among others — highly popular assistant and Tigers alumnus Robert Weiner.

Mr. Schmitz finished 14-7 in two seasons and took his team to the 2004 Class 3A region final, but struggled to endear himself to the Jesuit community. He resigned in 2005, less than a week before the start of spring practice, and he arrived at Land O'Lakes in 2011.

Plant defensive coordinator John Few coached under Mr. Schmitz at Jesuit and considers him a mentor with a great football mind. Few also remembers Mr. Schmitz's fire, which lit the Tigers against Tampa Bay Tech after a winless start to the 2003 season.

"He gives this impassioned speech to the team in the locker room," Few said. "He says, 'I don't care how we do it. You can win 2-0 or 53-52, this is a must-win game.' "

Sure enough, Jesuit won 2-0.

As a social studies teacher, Mr. Schmitz found ways to mix football analogies into his lessons.

"He was just an all-around great person in general, not just a football coach," said John Kranendonk, who played football and competed in track under Mr. Schmitz for two seasons before heading to Jacksonville University. "He changed the whole way I look at life."

Though he was not on the Gators' football staff this season, Mr. Schmitz remained a teacher and track coach. He was the Tampa Bay Times North Suncoast track coach of the year in 2012 and led Land O'Lakes to the Class 3A, District 6 championships the past two seasons.

"The passion he had on the field couldn't compare to the passion he had while working with kids in the Special Olympics," said Darin Patmon, who credits Schmitz for helping him sign with Columbia in 2012. "He has left a lasting impression on my life."

Land O'Lakes informed students of Mr. Schmitz's death Monday afternoon and provided counselors for students and teachers.

A phone message left at his family's home was not returned.

Mr. Schmitz is survived by his wife, Lynn, and two children, Allison and Matt, who is a head high school football coach in Kentucky.

This is the second death related to the Gators football program in five months; longtime coach John Benedetto died in April at age 66.

Staff writer Joey Knight contributed to this report. Matt Baker can be reached at or on Twitter @MattHomeTeam.

Land O'Lakes coach Schmitz, 59, dies 08/26/13 [Last modified: Monday, August 26, 2013 9:17pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays vs. Mariners, 6:10 p.m. Saturday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Mariners

    6:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    This is a 2017 photo of Jake Odorizzi of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team. This image reflects the 2017 active roster as of Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017 when this image was taken. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  2. Bucs journal: Starting defense disappointed holding Jags to 1 rushing yard


    JACKSONVILLE — The Bucs' starting defense held the Jaguars to a total of 1 rushing yard on seven carries in the first half of Thursday's 12-8 preseason win.

    And its members were disappointed.

    Jacksonville Jaguars running back T.J. Yeldon (24) is thrown for a 1-yard loss as he is stopped by Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David (54) and defensive end Robert Ayers (91) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux) JVS102
  3. Jameis Winston's hardest lesson: He can't always save the day


    TAMPA — Ever wonder what in the world goes through Jameis Winston's mind when he tries to fit the ball in a keyhole as he is being dragged to the turf like he was during Thursday night's 12-8 preseason win over the Jaguars?

    JACKSONVILLE, FL - AUGUST 17:  Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers attempts a pass during a preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on August 17, 2017 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) 700069805
  4. Florida starter under center still under wraps


    GAINESVILLE — With two weeks before Florida opens its season against Michigan, the Gators' three-way quarterback battle remains wide open.

    Luke Del Rio, right, is in the mix to start against Michigan in the season opener … as is Malik Zaire and Feleipe Franks.
  5. Jones: What Bucs need in final preseason games, more or less


    That's it. Let's start the season. Start it right now.

    Tom Jones wants to see less of Jameis Winston playing hot potato with the football and throwing it up for anyone to catch. [Getty Images]