TAMPA, Fla. - For 33 years, Plant High School head football coach Robert Weiner has been building a reputation as one of the most respected, winningest coaches, but one that also has made an equally strong impact in the community. He tries to put his students' and players' best interests first.
For the first time in his career, it's costing him.
Weiner has confirmed with FOX 13 Sports that he has been suspended by the Florida High School Athletic Association following a self-reported violation -- helping find housing for a teenager with family troubles.
The violation brings an automatic six-game suspension and a $5,000 fine for Coach Weiner, a $2,500 fine for the school, and a six-game suspension for Misty Winters, who is Plant's director of football operations, along with a $2,500 for her.
"You can tell me that I violated the details of rules that are in the FHSAA," said Weiner. "That I didn't follow policy or protocol. But no one will ever be able to tell me that I didn't follow the spirit and philosophy of education and athletics."
The violation stems around a student-athlete that initially lived in Plant's district, but didn't have a legal guardian to take care of him, which makes him ineligible to play sports. He was practicing with the team, but hadn't played for a winless Panthers football team.
"This clearly was not a situation where a coach was trying to recruit a player to get him to come play for him," said Weiner. "This clearly is not that."
Weiner will begin serving the suspension this week when his Plant Panthers play Steinbrenner High School.
Meanwhile, he is not denying culpability and has filed an appeal that will be heard next year by the FHSAA. Weiner is hoping that they will take into consideration this unique situation.
"Maybe that will come back in some common-sense ruling and understanding that this wasn't done right, but this was the reason that it was done," added Weiner. "The reason that it was done was pure and good and for the best interest of kids and not for trying to win a football game or get a football player out there on the field."