Terry Sims has spent the last several weeks watching from afar while Bethune-Cookman — a place where he spent a decade as a football coach — embroiled in turmoil.
Sims, who was fired by B-CU at the end of the 2022 season following consecutive 2-9 seasons, told HBCU Sports in a phone interview on Monday that what has transpired is “disheartening” to witness.
“You don’t ever want to see anything like that happen because it’s about these kids and the integrity of the university,” he said when asked to reflect on a month of events that have placed the school and football program. “That’s the part that’s disheartening and hurts and bothers me because the student-athletes are hurting from it and affecting them and the university.”
The HBCU is in a much different place these days amid the fallout from Ed Reed attempting to expose administrative and resource issues that he believed hampered the institution before the school moved on from him.
Sims, who was B-CU head coach for the last seven seasons and had been associated with the football program since 2010, explained that he, like Reed, also sought improvement prior to his departure.
Sims shared that he personally assisted with mold cleanup — one of the issues that recently concerned both students and athletes — during their campuswide protest to amplify apparent substandard living conditions and influence the school to reinstate Reed as coach.
“I don’t think it’s (campus conditions) terrible. People are going to exaggerate things,” said Sims. “All limited resources schools and some mid-majors will have issues no matter where you go. It’s just working to make it better.”
Without getting into specific conversations, he indicated being vocal and active about what was required to sustain the football operation.
“I did a lot that was not broadcast,” he said. “People said I should have said more publicly, but it would have been a blow-up situation like (currently) this one. If that would have happened a couple of years ago, then whose hurt? The student-athletes. I don’t like to see this happen because the student-athletes deserve better and the university deserves better.”
Since Reed’s departure, the players requested certain amenities they had lacked, including better nutrition, qualified trainers, adequate locker rooms and an updated training facility. Athletic director Reggie Theus has since indicated that there will be an investment in upgrades.
When asked why the football team was not afforded what is considered standard resources for most collegiate programs, Sims could not provide an explanation.
“If I had the answer to that, I would still be over there and had a winning record and everything else,” he said. “I don’t know why it wasn’t done. It was something I had not a lot of control over. When we got things, we put them to use. When we didn’t, we kept working. I have no clue why they didn’t get the things they’re being promised now.”
Sims said he “made the necessary people aware” of any issues.
“I made the necessary people aware. I didn’t go to the media,” he said. “That’s not the way to do it.”
’Not going to run from responsibility’
The former B-CU coach also refuted allegations that players routinely shared equipment, including helmets, during games.
A video circulating online showed players exchanging helmets on the sidelines during the Wildcats’ season opener at Miami last September. Sims, however, said in that instance, a team equipment manager didn’t pack enough helmets for the road game to accommodate what was an expanded active roster that day.
“The players didn’t have to share helmets every game,” he said. “Kids never had to share shoes. A kid has never been told, ‘You have to share shoes with this guy.’ If we were sharing helmets and cleats every game, they (the administration) would have seen it.”
While Sims didn’t specifically pin any of the current issues on B-CU administrators or even Theus, he did “take full responsibility” for what transpired within the football program because he was head coach.
“I was the football coach,” he said. “I’m definitely not going to run from responsibility.”
Sims did concede that in-person recruiting limitations due to budget constraints and securing consistent funding from donors were challenges at times during his stint.
“That was a daily deal with me,” Sims said of his efforts to solicit dollars for football. “You can’t put a cap on fundraising or soliciting funds. There was fundraising done, but we didn’t have a lot of people who were giving. I can’t tell you why. People say because of the losing, but when we were winning. they (the donors) were not giving.”
Despite the perceived negative attention Bethune-Cookman has received, the Reed aftereffect did spark conversations and, to some degree, forced school leadership to re-examine how it serves athletes and students.
For now, Sims has tempered any expectation of what could happen as a result moving forward.
“That has yet to be seen if the actual support comes,” he said. “Then you’ll be able to say whether it was worth it or not. My hope is that Bethune-Cookman could return to the great program it once was.”
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