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Plant High football coach Robert Weiner wins last appeal, has fine overturned

Weiner says the most important outcome was creating "a dialogue with the FHSAA and the coaches for figuring out guidelines to help kids within a framework of the rules.”
Plant coach Robert Weiner, here at a signing day ceremony, won't have to pay $5,000 stemming from a state statute for recruiting violations. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
Plant coach Robert Weiner, here at a signing day ceremony, won't have to pay $5,000 stemming from a state statute for recruiting violations. [SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times]

Plant High football coach Robert Weiner had his $5,000 fine for recruiting violations waived during an appeals meeting with the Florida High School Athletic Association board of directors last week.

In October, the state’s governing body for athletics issued six-week suspensions for Weiner and the program’s director of football operations, Misty Winter, for finding a player a temporary home, which turned out to be with someone connected to the team.

Plant self-reported the incident, but the FHSAA determined at the time there was a violation of state rules. According to the organization’s football manual, student-athletes are not allowed to receive special treatment that is not afforded to other students at the school.

Because of the arrangements that were made, Weiner was fined a total of $7,500 — $5,000 stemming from a state statute for recruiting violations that was to be deducted from his salary and another $2,500 for impermissible benefits. Winter also was fined $2,500.

The two had their suspensions reduced to three weeks during another appeal hearing last month. They did not ask to have their fines lowered or waived until the latest board of directors meeting. Winter had her entire case dropped, including the fine.

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“Through it all, it really was an amazing process,” said Weiner, who still had to pay the other $2,500 fine for impermissible benefits. “It was a very meaningful meeting where a lot of substantial issues were raised about taking care of young people in the way possible for all involved.”

Two months ago, Weiner said he discovered that one of his players was in an “untenable living situation.” The coach asked Winter to make some calls and find the player a place to live.

The football player at the heart of this issue appealed his ineligibility (the person he was living with became his legal guardian) and was immediately cleared to play in early October. The change in the player’s status swayed the FHSAA to initially lighten the penalties but not completely eliminate the suspensions.

Weiner and Winter both served their three-game suspensions before returning for the final two games of the regular season. The Panthers finished 4-6 and failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2005, Weiner’s second season as coach at Plant.

“We served the suspensions, and I understood about the $2,500 fine still sticking for impermissible benefits because there were some procedural things that could have been handled differently,” Weiner said. “Having the recruiting violations reduced was meaningful, but the most important thing, and what I was trying to get out of this, was to create a conversation, a dialogue, with the FHSAA and the coaches for figuring out guidelines to help kids within a framework of the rules.”

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