Travis Dixon leaving Eastmark to become Hamilton head football coach

Jan. 12—Hamilton High School has announced its intention to hire Travis Dixon as its next head football coach.

The announcement was made Friday afternoon by Hamilton Athletic Director Brett Palmer in a letter to families. The hire will be presented to the district governing board during its bi-weekly where it is expected to be approved.

"Coach Dixon brings a wealth of experience and success to Hamilton," Palmer wrote. "Coach is a graduate of Hamilton and as QB helped win the school's first-ever football state championship. With more than 10 years of coaching experience at the college and high school level, we are confident Coach Dixon's leadership will guide our program to new heights."

Dixon has been linked to Hamilton since Mike Zdebski stepped down as head coach following the 2023 season. Zdebski said it was "the right time" to step away from the program after six seasons.

During his tenure, Zdebski led the Huskies to the Open Division playoffs five times. They made the title game once — a 2020 matchup with rival Chandler that came down to a missed field goal by Hamilton as time expired. This past season, Hamilton fell to eventual Open Division champion Liberty in the first round.

Now, Dixon will take the reins of a program that was revived from its lowest point following a hazing scandal that derailed it following the 2016 season.

"Coach Dixon is more than just a winning football coach," Palmer wrote in the letter. "He is also a dedicated mentor and leader who is passionate about developing young men both on and off the field.

"His values of accountability, integrity, hard work and relationships align perfectly with the mission of Hamilton High School, and we look forward to his work creating a positive and successful culture within our program."

Dixon's status as an alumni of Hamilton made him stand out as a potential replacement early on in Hamilton's coaching search. Alumni, casual fans and, according to sources close to the program, some assistant coaches favored Dixon as the guy due to his status.

Dixon was a state champion quarterback at Hamilton. Following his graduation in 2005, he went on to become the starter at UNLV before making the switch to safety to finish his college career.

He landed his first gig as an assistant at Hamilton before stops in the college ranks at Arizona State, Abilene Christian and South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. He returned to Arizona to coach defensive backs under Eddy Zubey at Higley, where he helped lead the Knights to their first championship in 2022 at the 5A level.

In April of last year, he was hired away from Higley to lead an Eastmark program fresh off a 3A championship under Scooter Molander, who is now at Desert Vista. Dixon led the Firebirds back to the playoffs after moving up to the 4A Conference where they fell to eventual runner-up Yuma Catholic in the quarterfinals.

Kraig Leuschner, the athletic director at Eastmark, said he was happy for Dixon and his quick advancement in his coaching career.

Leuschner said the mood was somber when Dixon addressed the Eastmark team Friday, but as individuals they understood the opportunity he was presented. Dixon made sure to reiterate to them, however, that the opportunity was because of how hard they played for him in his one season.

"The message was really strong from Travis that he's got this opportunity because of what our kids put into this year," Leuschner said. "They invested in him for a year and as a result he's put himself in a position to get his dream job. It's kind of a no brain deal."

Leuschner said he believes Eastmark will be a position many will apply for. That was the case last year when Molander left for Desert Vista.

He said Dixon leaves the program in good standing, with a talented junior class taking over as seniors next fall and others behind them ready to step in and lead. Because of that, and as a show of respect to Dixon, Leuschner said he and Principal Jay Schnittger will be methodical and take their time choosing the next head coach.

"Posting a job the day of the news is a slap in the face to the last guy. I think it shows panic," Leuschner said. "Our job will post in the near future. We're on a pretty good timeline. Luckily, we're not strangers to the process.

"Last year we found a great guy and he's now valued at one of the top schools in the state."

The transition from assistant to head coach at a school of Hamilton's caliber has been quick for Dixon. But Palmer and the rest of the Hamilton hiring committee feel he is ready for the challenge.

"We are excited to welcome Coach Dixon and his family back to the Hamilton community," Palmer wrote. We know that he shares our passion for Hamilton football and we are eager to support him as he leads our team to victory."

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