Former SFMHS football coach reassigned, future with team questionable

Published: Updated:

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Former South Fort Myers High School head football coach Anthony Dixon, who was slated to be officially fired by the Lee County school board after a sex scandal involving several of his players, will not have his employment terminated by the school district.

“Together we agreed that while he and others need to be held accountable, termination was not in his, or the district’s best interest,” District Superintendent Dr. Gregory Adkins said in a statement.

However, Dixon will not return South Fort Myers. He will be assigned to an undetermined middle school and is banned from coaching any sport for this school year.

“Well, certainly nothing’s off the table at this point and I think right now Mr. Dixon’s just really looking forward to putting this horrible, horrible time in his life behind him and really taking a positive step forward,” said Ben Yormak, Dixon’s attorney.

Matthew Holderfield will remain as the interim football coach.

Dixon will serve as a paraprofessional, a role similar to a teacher’s aide. He will not lose any pay and will reimbursed for compensation missed since his Aug. 16 dismissal, said Yormak, who added that Dixon is expected to be in his new position by early next week.

“It’s been a rough month and I’m just looking forward to getting back to do what I do best, make young men and women better in the classroom and whatever I have to do to continue to do it,” Dixon said. “We wanna make sure that I continue to do what I do.”

The decision followed a meeting between Dixon and Adkins where the two men discussed the sex scandal and the coach’s impact on the school, where Dixon has been involved with the football program for 18 years.

“Every day we make decisions with the best interests of our children in mind,” Atkins said in his statement. “That is what we’re doing in this case. We can’t undo what happened last May, but we can learn from it, grow from it and be stronger and more unified because of it.”

Dixon was relieved of his duties following an investigation into a sex scandal involving a 15-year-old girl and several boys in a school bathroom in May.

During a one-hour study hall, 26 football players went to the bathroom, according to a district investigative report.

Dixon had his players write statements about the incident the next day, but did so without notifying administrators, the report said.

“When Mr. Dixon began collecting students and obtaining statements, he was unaware if a crime occurred…because he was unaware if a sex-crime occurred…Mr. Dixon could have violated his obligation as a mandatory reporter of child abuse according to Florida laws,” the report said.

The three month investigation concluded with the removal of Dixon and assistant coach Nathan O’Jibway, who remains employed with the district as a physical education teacher.

In addition to the coaches, five students were suspended and 11 others were disciplined.

William Scott, 16, is the only person facing criminal charges in the case. He was charged with cruelty towards a child, allowing a child to engage in a sexual act and possession of obscene material for videotaping the incident.

The video was also shared on social media, officials said.

Don Payne, the school’s athletic director, resigned from his position but agreed to stay until his replacement was found. Payne has not said why he resigned. He was expected to speak on behalf of Dixon during an Aug. 23 school board meeting but did not show up.

Nearly 30 people attended the board meeting to show their support for Dixon, including current and former students, parents, teachers and coaches.

The supporters, many of whom signed a petition to reinstate Dixon that has nearly 2,000 signatures, wore t-shirts with #dixonissouth on them.

“I think the school district certainly listened to public outcry and really understood the difference that Mr. Dixon’s making in the community,” said Yormak, the attorney. “So, with that, we look forward to getting Mr. Dixon back to helping kids, where he belongs.”

Copyright ©2024 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.