Bill Schmitz, a 1976 Coast Guard Academy graduate who later coached his alma mater to its first NCAA Division III football playoff appearance, died Monday in Florida of an apparent suicide.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office told the Tampa Tribune that Schmitz, 59, drove his 2010 Kia to the main span of the Sunshine Skyway bridge at 4:56 a.m., exited his car and jumped over the side of the railing into Tampa Bay.
His body, authorities told the Tribune, was recovered approximately four hours later.
Schmitz was teaching history and coaching the boys’ track and field team at Land O’ Lakes High School in Pasco County, Fla. He served as offensive coordinator of the Land O’ Lakes football team in 2011 and 2012, but was not coaching football this season, the Tribune said.
Schmitz, who played football and baseball at Coast Guard and was inducted into the Academy's Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001, guided the Bears to a 20-19 record over four seasons from 1993-96, capped by an 8-2 season in 1996 that led to the program’s first NCAA playoff appearance, where Coast Guard lost 17-16 in the opening round to the College of New Jersey.
Coast Guard athletic director Tim Fitzpatrick, in a statement released by the Academy on Monday, said: “We are very saddened to learn of the passing of coach Bill Schmitz, CGA Class of 1976. The athletics division coaches, staff and cadet-athletes send out thoughts, prayers and condolences to Bill’s family during their time of loss."