Drinking alcohol during an overnight baseball trip has led to the resignation of one of Tampa Bay’s top baseball coaches.
Wiregrass Ranch coach Jeff Swymer resigned Thursday after facing a possible yearlong coaching ban for drinking, Pasco County Schools spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said.
“It pains everyone that it’s come to this,” Cobbe said. “It's just a very, very unfortunate mistake.”
That mistake came in March when Swymer, his players and their parents were in Fort Lauderdale for a spring break tournament.
During an evening bowling outing, Swymer drank beer in front of his players, Cobbe said. Although it’s not a violation of Florida High School Athletic Association rules, the district’s policies prohibit employees from using alcohol “while on school property or while on duty.”
“When a coach is on a school-related overnight trip, the coach is responsible for supervising students 24/7,” Cobbe said. “At no time should the coach consume alcohol, because he is responsible for the children.”
This was the first offense for Swymer, a 32-year-old adjunct coach who is not otherwise employed by the district, but a similar incident in the district resulted in a yearlong suspension for that coach. When the school’s administration told Swymer he might have to sit out a year, he resigned before the district investigated, Cobbe said.
His departure ends the best run in program history. Swymer brought stability and success to the Bulls when he was hired in 2009 as their third head coach in three seasons. He compiled a 76-33 record with two Sunshine Athletic Conference titles during his four seasons as head coach.
He was the Times’ North Suncoast coach of the year this spring after leading Wiregrass to a 19-10 record, its first ever playoff appearance, a playoff win over nationally ranked Steinbrenner and a trip to the Class 7A region final.
Swymer did not return phone or text messages, but thanked his team for their support in an email to parents.
“I can honestly say I tried to do everything in my power to make this a top of the line program and one of the best teams in the state…” Swymer wrote. “I have no doubt the foundation laid for this program will continue to carry the program in the right direction. I wish I was going to be a part of that continued growth, however I'm sure the administration will do their best to bring in someone who they feel can do it better than I have.”
Before Swymer’s departure, the Bulls were expected to be one of Pasco County’s top programs in 2014. At least three returning players have already committed to play college baseball: Michael Campoamor (Furman) and Zach and Austin Drury (North Florida).
Some of his players publicly supported their coach Thursday via Twitter.
“After all that man has done for the school and community for them to do him like that its ridiculous,” infielder Richie Piazza wrote.
“Coach swymer is wiregrass baseball,” Austin Drury tweeted. “Can’t do it without him, bring him back!”
“It’s really causing pain for everybody involved,” Cobbe said, “because they love the coach.”
Swymer also volunteers as the Bulls’ offensive line coach. In 2006, he was arrested in Hillsborough County on suspicion of driving under the influence.