When Roy Dixon took over the Central High baseball team after its 2012 season, his goal was to help lead the program to a state championship.
On Wednesday, just hours after he had informed the school district of his resignation, his goal was still the same.
“We do what’s right for the team,” he said over the phone on Wednesday. “My goal is still for them to win a state championship, and I want to help them in any way possible.”
Dixon stepped down after three years at the helm. The Red Devils finished up their 2015 campaign on Saturday with a 13-2 loss to Smiths Station in their final game, eliminating them from playoff contention after a 2-1 win earlier in the day had briefly kept their hopes alive.
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Central finished the season with a 26-15 overall record, struggling down the stretch and going 1-4 in area play. It went 25-15 last season, also failing to make the playoffs after a promising start, and 8-29 in 2013, Dixon’s first season as the team’s head coach.
“When I took this job, it was my goal to win state,” he said. “You can’t win without making the playoffs.”
Despite the lack of any postseason success, Central undoubtedly made strides in the right direction under Dixon’s watch, improving its win total in each successive season. Now, it’s his hope that his successor will take a talented roster to the next level.
Who that successor will be is still anyone’s guess, but it is no secret who is the most prominent possibility.
Former Columbus High coach Bobby Howard left the Blue Devils after three games this season, ending one of the most successful runs ever for a high school baseball program. Howard said this week that he had been helping with the Central High football strength and conditioning program, but had no plans beyond the spring. Red Devils football coach Jamey DuBose confirmed that he had approached him about joining the football staff, but said no job had officially been offered nor accepted.
Dixon would not comment on the direction Central will take with his replacement, but did say he didn’t want to be in a position where he was worried about his job stability, whether due to the team’s lack of success or due to the presence of someone else.
“I can’t speak for other people, but I’ve always told my family that I would never coach looking over my shoulder,” he said. “Because the kids are what is in front of me.”
Dixon will remain a teacher at the school. While he has no current plans of direct involvement with the baseball program going forward, he said he wouldn't rule out the possibility of joining the staff should his replacement ask.
"Never say never," he said. "The situation would have to be right. I won't rule it out. I'd have to humble myself and be willing to learn and do what's best for the kids."
He stressed his appreciation for the opportunity to fill a lifelong dream of being a head baseball coach and being able to do it in the town that he grew up in.
Dixon played baseball and football at Russell County, graduating from the school in 1996. He went on to play baseball at Wallace State-Dothan for two years before four rotator cuff surgeries forced him to give up his playing career. He was an assistant coach for Tony Rasmus at Russell County for nine years before joining former Central coach Chris Heaps’ staff in 2011.
“It was a dream come true to be the head coach at Central, and I’ve got nothing but good things to say about what Phenix City has done for me,” Dixon said. “Everyone bought in. I had 100-percent backing at all times.”
Phenix City superintendent Randy Wilkes released a statement expressing similar appreciation for Dixon.
“On behalf of Phenix City Schools, we extend our appreciation and heartfelt thanks to Coach Roy Dixon for three years of service as head baseball coach at Central High School,” the statement said. “Coach Dixon is respected by players and fans alike.”
Central will be searching for its fifth head coach in the past 10 years after a 24-year tenure by Ron Nelson, who stepped down after the 2006 season.