Robert Weiner follows heart, opts for Plant over USF job
TAMPA - Less than 48 hours after Robert Weiner bid a tearful farewell to hundreds of players, coaches and parents inside Plant High's football field house, he was in the same field house being welcomed back to rousing cheers. On Monday morning, Weiner was working at his new job for the University of South Florida as the Bulls' receivers coach, but by Monday afternoon he was having serious seconds thoughts. By Monday night, he was telling Plant principal Rob Nelson he was thinking about changing his mind. On Tuesday morning, he called Nelson back and said he wanted to return to Plant. "It's been an emotional roller coaster to say the least," Weiner said between cracks in his voice during the afternoon press conference. "But I think the emotions are appropriate. In the end, you have to follow your heart, and my heart was with Plant and these players."Weiner made sure to add that his decision had nothing to do with USF or its new coach Willie Taggart. "I really, really, really want to thank Willie Taggart and say that USF did absolutely nothing wrong," Weiner said. "They were nothing but great to me." One of the happiest players in the room was junior quarterback Colby Brown, who was one of the saddest on Sunday. "As much of an emotional roller coaster as it was for coach Weiner it was more so for me," Brown said. "I wanted what was best for him, but I am so happy that I get to work with him (through senior year). He is a legend and I'm so lucky to work with him." Taggart, meantime, must move on. "Coach Weiner is a great coach and a man who will continue to do great things at Plant,'' he said in a statement released by USF. "We knew pulling him away from the young men in the Plant program would be very difficult for him, and we wish him continued tremendous success moving forward.'' Weiner's connections to Tampa high schools were expected to be a boon for USF's local recruiting efforts. His high school colleagues described his initial move as "win-win'' because he could enter the college coaching ranks without leaving Tampa. Weiner said he began wondering if he was abandoning his true calling in departing the high school ranks, where he influenced impressionable teenagers. Plant Principal Robert Nelson said he was "extremely excited'' about Weiner's return. "He's more than a coach,'' Nelson said. "He's a great teacher. He cares about these kids. He helps get them scholarships, oversees their mentoring and tutoring. He has built a solid program.'' Weiner also had built a solid relationship with Taggart, once a quarterback at Bradenton's Manatee High. As an assistant coach at Stanford University, Taggart recruited Plant quarterback Aaron Murray, who eventually decided on Georgia. Taggart maintained his Plant recruiting presence during three seasons as Western Kentucky University's head coach. Taggart had casual talks about bringing Weiner onto his college staff. When Taggart was hired at USF, the fit for Weiner seemed perfect. But the pull was too great at Plant, where Weiner is 102-19 in nine seasons. Thirty-nine of his players have been first-team selections on the Tampa Tribune's All-Hillsborough County teams. He coached three Tribune players of the year – Robert Marve, Murray and James Wilder – while four times being named county coach of the year. Taggart, who was hired Dec. 8 by USF, is still seeking five full-time assistant coaches, including the key position of defensive coordinator. Taggart retained offensive assistant Larry Scott from Skip Holtz's staff. He hired three assistants from WKU – defensive assistant Raymond Woodie, offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Walt Wells and quarterbacks coach Nick Sheridan. "I enjoyed every minute I spent at USF," Weiner said. "It just wasn't many minutes."