Wiregrass coach chooses resignation over suspension
Wiregrass Ranch High baseball coach Jeff Swymer, left, faced suspension for drinking alcohol in front of players. 2012, ANDY JONES/STAFF
BY MIKE CAMUNAS Tribune correspondent
Published: June 13, 2013
Updated: June 13, 2013 at 09:55 PM
After the team’s most successful season, Wiregrass Ranch High School baseball coach Jeff Swymer said Thursday he has resigned from his position.
According to Pasco County School Board spokeswoman Linda Cobbe, Swymer, 32, faced a yearlong suspension from coaching by the school board for an incident during spring break that occurred with players present.
Swymer, who took the Bulls to a March tournament in Fort Lauderdale, went to a bowling alley with the players and parent chaperones one evening. Swymer then consumed a beer with the parents in front of players, Cobbe said.
When players are with Swymer — without their parents present — they are his responsibility, and coaches and teachers aren’t allowed to consume alcohol, Cobbe said.
“It’s terribly unfortunate. I know the school feels sick about it. I know he feels sick about it,” Cobbe said. “It was an unfortunate lapse of judgment, and you feel bad for everyone, especially the players who lose their coach.”
Cobbe said Swymer, who is not employed as a teacher for Pasco County, had not been suspended or told of a suspension. An assistant principal at the school, however, advised him of the likely outcome, so Swymer opted to resign.
Bulls athletics director Dave Wilson said Thursday morning the school and administration stood behind Swymer, but Swymer decided to step down because of the circumstances.
Swymer, who was named the Tribune’s All-Pasco County Coach of the Year, said he was touched by the outreach and support from players and the text messages they sent.
“They are the ones I’m the most concerned about,” Swymer said. “I’ve got kids I’ve had since they were eighth-graders, and now they’re going to be seniors. ... They’re struggling with this.”
In a letter to players and their parents provided by Cobbe, Swymer expressed gratitude for the players’ hard work and dedication. He also wrote that an anonymous party reported the incident.
Swymer, who was 76-33 record in four seasons, led the Bulls to a 19-10 record and to the Class 7A region final that included an upset of then-nationally ranked Steinbrenner High School. The 2013 season was also Wiregrass’ first postseason berth in program history.
“Wiregrass Ranch High School baseball has become one of the top baseball programs in the state over Jeff’s tenure due to his tireless work and dedication to the program,” Wilson said in a statement.
Swymer’s resignation also hurts the football team, as Swymer had become a valuable assistant on a Bulls team looking to snap a 22-game losing streak.
Some players and parents took to Twitter to display their outrage and to support Swymer.
“Coach Swymer is Wiregrass baseball. Can’t do it without him, bring him back!” junior outfielder Austin Drury said.
“Coach Swymer was not only a great coach, I think I can speak for everyone when I say he made us ALL better well-rounded individuals,” former baseball player James Coviello said.
And Esther Guzman, mother of senior outfielder Marcus Guzman, added: “Very unfortunate for a successful baseball program! Hoping & praying for a reconsideration.”
Swymer added he is disappointed to miss what could have been an even better season that includes three Division I players on the roster in Michael Campoamor and the Drury brothers, Zach and Austin.
“It hurts,” Swymer said. “But it hurts the kids, and that hurts more.”