Willie Simmons seems likes a fine head coach and good man.
In his second year, the former Alcorn State offensive coordinator has turned the Prairie View Panthers into one of the better programs in the SWAC, going 15-6 over the last two seasons.
The Panthers are, without question, headed in the right direction for years to come with Simmons at the helm.
But the Panthers do not belong in this year’s FCS playoffs regardless of how much Simmons protests.
After Prairie View (7-4) failed to secure an at-large bid, Simmons did what most coaches should and made a case on behalf of his team.
“We went into the game hoping that win would be enough to give us an at-large playoff berth. That didn’t happen,” said Simmons. “We’re extremely disappointed in that, being it’s the second year in a row we felt we’ve fielded a team that did enough on the field to warrant an at-large bid. But, as it was last year, that’s part of it, and we want to continue to grow the program in a manner that we’re not depending on someone else to control our destiny, that we’re controlling our own destiny by winning games on the field. That’s something that we’re pledged to do here.”
Simmons explained the bulk of the disappointment was rooted in being told by the playoff committee that Prairie View needed to increase its strength of schedule from a year ago.
“We increased our strength of schedule, and of course had to go through a nine-game conference schedule where we lost two games to two teams who haven’t lost a game to an FCS team all year,” Simmons said. “Grambling is ranked in the Top 25 in FCS football, and Southern warrants that, to be ranked. We felt we had done enough on the field, beat some really good teams, and played really well against Rice, scored 44 points on them and almost 500 yards to say, in looking at our body of work over the course of two years, we warranted a bid.
Hate to break it to you, Willie, but losing to Texas A&M, Rice and dropping SWAC games to Grambling and Southern by a combined 30 points, does not make for a compelling playoff resume.
“A lot of teams get in the playoffs based on reputation. Last year, there was a 6-5 team that got in. This year, there was a 6-5 team that got in just because of the conference they are in. We feel like right now the SWAC right now is not getting the respect that we deserve. I’ll put a lot of (SWAC) teams up against any playoff team right now and we’d definitely give them a handful. It’s extremely disappointing. Again, we feel like we’re a good enough team to do that, and go into the playoffs, but it’s out of our control. We have to keep working to get better and hopefully in the future not put ourselves in the situation where two years in a row we’ve had to wait on a committee to let us in, as opposed to representing our conference in the SWAC championship.”
Willie, my man. Listen. Illinois State — that 6-5 team which made the playoffs — beat Northwestern (a Power Five school) this year.
Prairie View didn’t have a single win of note this season. None.
Your team’s best win of the season was against a regressing 5-5 Alcorn State team that probably is going to finish the season with a losing record.
There is no conspiracy or racial bias against the SWAC that’s keeping Prairie View out of the playoffs.
The Panthers were just not good enough compared to their peers to make the cut. Any reasonable observer could see that.
It’s not enough to just increase the nonconference schedule strength only to lose those games.
Wanna make the playoffs? Beat the best teams in your division first.
Don’t finish in third place behind them.
Let your play on the field, not words or talking heads on social media vouch for you. Give the committee something to work with next time.
Win and leave no doubt.