UWS coach Plachta’s future in limbo

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Jon Nowacki

Duluth News Tribune


University of Wisconsin-Superior softball coach Roger Plachta didn’t know what to expect when he attended a meeting with administration officials Monday morning, but it turned out to be a shocker.

Plachta, the Yellowjackets’ all-time winningest coach, has been suspended with pay while the university investigates a misconduct complaint.

“I’ve bled Superior colors my whole life, so to find out I’m suspended, it’s just been devastating to me,” Plachta said Tuesday.

Plachta couldn’t comment on the specifics of the investigation because he hasn’t received the paperwork, which he expects today or tomorrow. UWS interim athletic director Nick Bursik referred comment to Gigi Koenig, UWS vice chancellor of administration and finance, but she couldn’t be reached Tuesday.

Plachta, 61, is a lifelong resident of Superior. He attended UWS in 1979-80 and played a season of baseball there. He has coached softball 34 years, including stints at Esko and Superior high schools. He just completed his 17th season at UWS, with a career record of 339-293-1. He also coaches the UWS women’s golf team.

“I haven’t done anything different than I have the last 34 years,” Plachta said. “I know it’s a little different nowadays. My kids understand the way I am. It’s just that other people don’t understand.”

During his suspension, Plachta can’t be on campus, he can’t talk to his players or UWS employees.

“I can’t imagine UWS softball without Roger Plachta,” former Yellowjacket Katie Wilke said by phone Tuesday..

Wilke, who graduated in 2016, started a petition Monday night in support of Plachta at signandshare.org, and as of 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, there were 524 signatures.

“It just goes to show, within 24 hours, how strongly the community, as well as past and present players, feels about Roger being the head coach,” Wilke said. “It’s overwhelming to read the comments.”

Plachta is known as a character, beloved by many, but can come across as gruff on the exterior, with habits that might rub some people the wrong way. He is unpolished and blunt. Laidback off the field, he is incredibly intense on it. It hasn’t been unusual to see him in his car enjoying a cigarette after a game, unwinding after getting so wrapped into its outcome. He acknowledges he has been told to tone down his yelling, but it’s certainly not his style as he tries to light a spark and get the most out of his players.

“Not all coaches yell, but not all coaches care if they win or not,” Plachta said.

Wilke said any complaints directed at Plachta likely come from people who don’t know him.

Wilke, of Baraboo, Wis., described her own experience, going through family hardships during college, and how Plachta has been like a father figure to her and other players.

“There were many times I went into his office crying because of the things I was dealing with, but he was there for me every step of the way,” Wilke said. “There is so much that people don’t see off the field about who Roger is and what he does for his players. We’re really a family, and we trust each other and care about each other. He does so much off the field for us, and that speaks more to he is than any of the wins.”