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Acosta enjoys good life

Roland Acosta, the coach who built Plant High's dynasty in the 1970s and '80s, has returned to high-school football. He's a commentator for Time Warner's televised game of the week. The new job already has provided a few surprises.

"I had never seen a halftime show before," said Acosta, 64, who also owns a real-estate agency. "I was always in the locker room. Man, I didn't know they had such great shows. I love watching them. I have a different view of things now."

With the exception of his opening-night TV assignment _ Tampa Bay Tech 13, Plant 7 _ Acosta said he has been far removed from the Panther program. Acosta retired in 1994, with a Hillsborough County career-best record of 164-82-1 in his 23-season career (the victory record has since been broken by Chamberlain's Billy Turner).

Acosta has rarely been seen around Plant during Coach Steve Coleman's three-season tenure.

"Sooner or later, everything has to end," Acosta said. "Leaving was hard at first because that was such a big part of my life. I was the football coach at Plant High School. That was how people knew me.

"Things had changed over the years, though. It was harder to find the athletes. Winter baseball has become big in Hillsborough County, and we were losing some of our football players to that. The program was starting to slide a bit. I think I got out at the right time."

Acosta said his memories are sustained by four 10-0 regular-season finishes, six playoff appearances and tons of intangibles.

"We never had players with their shirts hanging out or players who were hot-dogging it," Acosta said. "They wore shirts and ties to school on game day. I told them that was the attire for every important event in their life _ a wedding, a job interview _ and they should look classy when we were preparing for a game. And if they forgot their tie, I had 15 or 20 of my old ones on a hanger that I could loan to them.

"We never won the state title, although we came close a few times. But even when we lost, the other team knew they had to prepare very hard to face Plant High School. So there was some pride in that, too."

Acosta said there probably won't be a return to coaching. He'll continue in real estate, television and sideline security during Buc games at Houlihan's Stadium. Also, he and wife Naomi are enjoying their condominium at Redington Beach.

"I don't think about anything out there," Acosta said. "I just relax and look at the waves. It's so peaceful. Really, it's a lifelong dream of ours to have a place at the beach. On most Friday nights, except when I'm doing a TV game or something, that's where you'll find me. Just out there alone with my thoughts."