After manning the sidelines for a decade, Bill Navas is hanging up his headset and heading to the front office.
Navas resigned as the head football coach of the Jefferson Dragons on Friday and will become the new athletic director for Class AAAAA Duluth High.
"It’s tough for me to give up coaching right now, I feel like I’m in my coaching prime," said Navas, who coached the Dragons to an 11-1 record last year, won the Region 8-AA title and advanced to the second round of the Class AA playoffs.
"God has opened this door for me and after much deliberation I decided I would take it," he added. "I enjoy the administration part of athletics, and if I couldn’t coach, the thing I would want to do is work with coaches and athletes."
Navas, who has a career record of 63-47-1, takes over a Duluth athletic program with some bright spots and some not-so bright spots.
The football program has won five games since 2004, including an 0-10 season in 2008; the baseball program has finished near the bottom of the Region 7-AAAAA standings for the past two seasons, and the boys basketball program has struggled to remain competitive in a region that boasts schools like three-time defending Class AAAAA champion Norcross.
"It’s like the SEC," Navas said of his new region.
He knows he has his work cut out for him.
"You look at a program and you see an opportunity for improvements," he said. "I want to make all the programs better."
One program he won’t have to do much work on is girls basketball, where the team made the final four last year and is in the quarterfinals this season.
While he has a tall task in front of him, Navas is leaving behind a Jefferson program that he thinks is heading in the right direction. He won’t have a say in his replacement, but if he had his choice it would be his defensive coordinator, Tom Parker.
"I think the players would support him and the community would support him," Navas said. "But it’s obviously not my call."
That call lies with Jefferson’s athletic director Tim Corbitt.
"We’re accepting applications right now," Corbitt said. "This is ground zero, and we’re definitely not looking at anyone specifically."
Regardless of who it is, Navas said he has faith that Jefferson will hire "a top-notch coach."
Navas will be pulling double duty for the next couple of weeks, shuttling back and forth between Jefferson and Duluth so he can get a firm handle on where the Wildcats are financially and athletically.
During his final days at Jefferson, Navas will continue to work in the weight room with his former players, who he gave the news of his resignation to on Friday.
"It was tough because these kids are so special," he said. "I’d be lying if I told you I did it with a dry eye."
While leaving Jefferson’s football program will be hard, Navas said he will continue to live in the city and his girls will still be Dragons.
"A piece of my heart will always be here," he said.