Stephen Douglas Giddens graduated from Clay County High School in Ashland where he was a four-sport letterman. After earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Auburn University and Jacksonville State University, respectively, his work in education eventually brought him back home. Little did he know he would be saddled with the biggest merger in his Clay County history.
Giddens, who spent close to four decades serving as a teacher, coach, and administrator, is one of 13 individuals who were inducted as the Class of 2023 in the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame. The induction banquet was Monday at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center.
While Giddens is synonymous with his accomplishments in Clay County and at Lineville High School, his impact has been felt here in Randolph County as well. He spent time as a coach and principal at RCHS and has influenced two other educators – Lori Carlisle and Clifton Drummonds – who were or are currently principals here.
Giddens is among a special group of coaches who have competed for state championships in both basketball and football. His total in the two sports includes one state championship, three runners-up and several semifinal appearances. He finished with a basketball record of 319-54 and a football record of 138-47. However, his impact as coach was followed by even more impact as a school administrator.
He began his teaching and coaching career at New Site High School in 1985. Two years later, he moved to Randolph County High School where he was named head basketball coach in 1990. He compiled a record of 74-16, leading his 1993 team to the runner-up spot in the state tournament.
In 1993, he returned home to Clay County High School serving as an assistant coach. He moved over to county rival Lineville High School in 1995 where he was head basketball coach for 12 years. He had two Final Four teams including the 1996 state championship squad. In 1999, he assumed the head football coaching duties while still coaching basketball. His football record was 128-45 with runner-up teams in 1999 and 2002. In 13 playoff appearances, his record was 31-14. His teams compiled an 80-14 record while winning seven region titles.
In 2012, Clay County’s school system merged Clay County and Lineville into a new school, Central of Clay County, which was built halfway between the two cities of Ashland and Lineville. The rivalry that had existed between the two schools was ranked among the Top 10 in the nation by USA Today. The two schools even met in the Class 2A state finals at Legion Field in the first year of the Super 6.
When the merger occurred, Giddens became head football coach at the new Central of Clay County High School when Lineville and Clay County high schools were finally consolidated in 2012. His ability to merge two coaching staffs, two student populations and two communities into one unified program was very successful from the get-go as the Volunteers rolled to a 10-2 record that first year despite competing in the larger Class 5A.
Afterwards, he left coaching but remained as athletic director and later as principal. Like any great educator, Giddens’ influence was equally great off the field as two colleagues asserted.
“He has been both my direct supervisor as principal and coworker,” former Wadley High School principal Lori Carlisle said. “During this time, I have also watched him coach both football and basketball. He was superior at all of it. He is a great administrator, coach, and person. It was through Coach Giddens that I learned the greatest lesson of all – develop relationships with everyone and show them that you truly care about them.”
Carlisle said he had a personal relationship with parents, students, and the faculty, and he found ways to show them he was ‘for’ them.
“His servant leadership resonated with me, and it is because of him that I am the administrator that I am today,” Carlisle said. “I could always learn and ‘check off the boxes’ that are required for the district and state, but now I can do so much more because of my time spent working for him and alongside him. In my eyes, he is the GOAT – the greatest of all time.”
For Randolph County High School Principal Clifton Drummonds, his relationship with Giddens has been equally personal.
“Coach Giddens made a tremendous impact in my life when I was an athlete playing for him,” Drummonds said. “When I was in the tenth grade, I had accumulated school fees in the amount of $400. I was not able to receive my textbooks and workbooks for classes until the fees were paid. Coach Giddens picked me up at 5 a.m. on Saturday mornings and after Friday night football games to cut firewood to help pay the fees.”
Drummonds said he was not the only student-athlete who learned the valuable lesson of a strong work ethic from Giddens.
“As several teammates and I progressed through high school, he was able to help us with summer jobs in his mother-in-law’s chicken houses and cutting grass for his mother,” Drummonds added. “As I was beginning to apply for colleges and scholarships, Coach Giddens completed my FAFSA for me. I was sick during the second week of basketball playoffs in 1993, and Coach took me to the doctor. He later made a point to come to my house to check on me. I am a living testimony of what can happen when someone invests his love away from the playing field and athletics.”
“I was once told by Coach Ron Watters (HOF, 2010) that it is the small things that make a big difference. To some, the things Coach Giddens did for me may seem small, but these ‘small things’ saved my high school career and made me the man, coach, and administrator I am today.”
The Hall of Fame is a program developed and managed by the AHSAA’s Alabama High School High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association (AHSADCA). This year’s class will be the 33rd class inducted since the HOF inception in 1991.