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UWS reinstates coach Plachta

Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com

Jon Nowacki

Duluth News Tribune

Longtime University Wisconsin-Superior coach Roger Plachta still doesn’t know the reasons he was suspended, but ultimately, it doesn’t matter.

Plachta is just happy to have his job back.

Plachta was reinstated as the Yellowjackets’ softball and golf coach Tuesday, just over six weeks from when he was first informed May 8 that he was being put on paid administrative leave pending a university investigation into complaints against him.

Plachta, 61, is the softball program’s all-time wins leader. While other university programs struggled in the competitive WIAC, his teams were always competitive and sometimes thrived, going 339-293-1 in 17 seasons at UWS. He is a lifelong resident of Superior and attended UWS.

“I’m just happy to be back,” Plachta said. “I love the school, and I love the people of Superior. It’s where I’ve always been.”

UWS confirmed the reinstatement in a news release, saying Chancellor Renee Wachter “concluded the investigation with a written letter of reprimand (to Plachta) for behavior not aligned” to workplace expectations and university policies. Plachta said the letter was mailed to him.

Plachta received a previous letter from the chancellor concerning his workplace behavior and his use of “university funds in connection with purchasing and travel arrangements.”

Plachta said he was as curious as anybody to know what he did wrong, so he can correct it in the future.

“I met with the investigators, but they didn’t tell me what the accusations were,” Plachta said. “All they asked me was about how I coached, and how my program was, and how I felt about the kids, and I told them everything was great.”

UWS interim athletic director Nick Bursik wasn’t part of the investigation but said he will work with Plachta to make sure he adheres to university policy.

“I’m glad to have the case concluded, so we can move forward,” Bursik said. “Roger and I will work together to lay out a plan to make sure we operate our program to the highest level.”

Plachta said he is supposed to meet with Brenda Harms, UWS interim vice chancellor, but he assumed that had more do with the financial aspect of the university’s investigation. Plachta had overdue paperwork from the spring he wasn’t able to complete until after the season. He hopes to hire an assistant for next season to ease the burden of coaching two sports.

“I’m not great with paperwork,” Plachta acknowledged. “I’m not really great on the computer, so I know I have to go through some training.”

That training, however, will be put on hold as Plachta went on medical leave last week. He was diagnosed with congestive heart failure this past winter and put on medication. Doctors wanted him to do a stress test but he held off until after his spring seasons were over.

Plachta had the stress test done June 14 and abnormalities were discovered. He will have an angiogram Monday to find out if there are heart blockages.

“I can’t win,” Plachta said.

Plachta has a gruff style that can be abrasive to some, but is loved by others. He said he has to tone down yelling and swearing for his heart, if nothing else.

Bursik acknowledged the support Plachta received from the community and alumni during his suspension and said he will be eased back into it.

“We definitely want everything to work out for him and we’re going to be supporting him,” Bursik said. “We’ll give him all the time he needs for recovery, and then once he’s back, we’ll figure everything out.”

Plachta said his top four recruits still plan on attending UWS and other players threatened to quit if he wasn’t reinstated. He said his latest health issues have nothing to do with his suspension. Plachta said he prepared himself for any outcome.

“I got to the point where I didn’t care one way or another,” Plachta said. “I know that I’m going to have to retire someday anyways, but I didn’t want to go out that way. I wanted to go out when I was ready to go out.

“Every year you think you have a good team coming back, and there are always those kids who keep you coming back. You get attached to them.”

Plachta said what he learned the most during his suspension was the value of a team. He was most proud of the support he received from his former athletes. More than 750 people signed a petition in support of Plachta at signandshare.org, and more than 30 sent letters to the university.

“I can’t thank them enough for standing up for me,” Plachta said. “Without their help, I would have never been back. It took a little bit longer than I thought, but I’m just happy everything worked out the way it did.”

’JACKET JOTTINGS: Plachta, 61, is a lifelong resident of Superior and has three children — Eric, Jamie and Sarah. He attended UWS in 1979-80 and played a season of baseball there  before being an assistant baseball coach in 1982. … He has coached softball 34 years, including stints at Esko and Superior high schools. He also coaches the UWS women’s golf team, which advanced to the 2016 NCAA Championships in Houston, Texas. … Plachta’s softball teams have set 65 school records, won a WIAC Western Division Championship (2001), and a pair of WIAC Conference Championship (2002, 2004). Last season Plachta guided the Yellowjackets to the UMAC Playoff championship and a berth in the NCAA tournament, the third appearance in school history (2002, 2004, 2016). … He has also coached 28 First-Team All-WIAC/UMAC selections, 11 All-Great Lakes Region players and two National Fast pitch Coaches Association All-Americans. … Plachta named WIAC Coach of the Year in 2002. … In 1995 Plachta won the National Girls and Women in Sports Award, which recognizes individuals who are driven to breaking barriers and expanding boundaries in women's sports. Plachta was a finalist for the award again in 2001.

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