Taking a look back at Coach Hicks' time at Baldwin
The 2005 season was the best of times for Baldwin High football.
The Braves made a deep playoff run all the way to the Georgia Dome. An estimated 4,000 people from Milledgeville made the trip to Atlanta that day. Some downtown business owners painted their windows with messages supporting the team. A crowd gathered at The Brick that day to watch the game. Never before had Milledgeville rallied behind a local team like that, and the man responsible was Jesse Hicks, a young coach from Augusta with no previous head coaching experience.
Nothing lasts forever, however, and on Thursday it was announced that Hicks will not be retained as Baldwin High's head football coach for next season. Hicks easily is the winningest coach in program history, and it's not even close. Hicks won 110 games at the school, followed in distant second and third by Bill Young (38 wins) and Ricky Smith (35 wins).
2005 was a long time ago, however. The last few seasons haven't been a whole lot of fun for the fans and, quite frankly, the players. Baldwin football hasn't necessarily been bad in the last few years, but it has been incredibly average. The Braves' record in the last three seasons combined is exactly .500 (6-4 in 2021, 4-7 in 2022 and 6-5 in 2023).
The Braves haven't won a playoff game since 2019. They've lost their last three playoff games, all in the first round, by a combined score of 118 to 20.
Things gradually grew stale around the program, and apathy set in amongst the fans and the community. Attendance began to drop. Some of the longtime fans stopped going to the games. The crowd for this year's Howard matchup was especially dismal...
When offering perspective on Hicks' career at Baldwin, it's important to separate it into two parts – his first stint as head coach at Baldwin between 2002-2009 and his second stint between 2017–2023. During the last five seasons of Hicks' first go-around at Baldwin (2005-2009), the Braves averaged 9.9 wins per season. This included two 10-win seasons and even a 12-win season.
Compare that to Hick's most recent five seasons (2019-2023), when Baldwin has averaged 5.2 wins per season.
– Georgia High School Football History Association
Over the years, Hicks was a positive male model and father figure to hundreds of young men around Milledgeville, including many who never had the closest relationship with their own fathers. Former players, now grown and many with families of their own, remember Hicks very fondly.
That's great and everything, but you also have to win. There are plenty of other ways that someone can mentor young men without being a head football coach. Winning is a major part of the job description, and Hicks simply didn't win enough games during his second tenure at the school. Some of it, of course, comes down to money. The fewer fans that attend games, the less money that the school makes. Winning state playoff games also is relatively profitable, and the Georgia High School Association rewards teams financially for making deep playoff runs. In 2012, for example, Norcross High and Lovejoy High each received a $39,000 check from the GHSA for making it to the state championship game.
Winning also is good for school spirit. Baldwin High football didn't have the same buzz and enthusiasm around campus during Hicks' second stint, in comparison to his first. There just wasn't the same energy around the school, and there wasn't the same energy around town.
It's the end of an era at Baldwin, but time marches on. The administration will now post the job opening on the appropriate websites and sit back and hope for a strong pool of candidates to apply. Whoever administrators ultimately choose, however, will have extremely big shoes to fill.