When Terry Sims was named the new coach at Bethune-Cookman University, he didn’t need to be introduced to his new team nor taken on a tour of the Daytona Beach campus.
Sims knew just about everything he needed to about the Wildcats.
“It has helped tremendously,” said Sims, a B-CU assistant the previous five seasons. “I understand the program, this university, our kids. It makes things a lot easier to go through our day-to-day business because of the familiarity.”
Sims was named the 11th coach in program history just five days after Brian Jenkins left to take over at Alabama State.
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In five seasons with the Wildcats, Jenkins won at least a share of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title four times — including the past three.
“Throughout the entire process of searching for a head coach, the name Terry Sims kept coming up, not only from coaches, but from the majority of our players,” athletic director Lynn Thompson said when Sims was announced. “It was a swift process, and we reviewed five outstanding candidates.
“However, Terry Sims came out of it with the pedigree we felt would continue what we already have in place here at Bethune-Cookman University — a winning football program. Four MEAC titles in the last five years speaks for itself in that regard.”
Last year, B-CU went 6-2 in conference play and was one of four teams (South Carolina State, North Carolina A&T and North Carolina Central) to share the title.
“We are used to winning around here,” Sims said. “Our guys understand what it takes to win, and they come out and work hard every day. We don’t take anything for granted. We don’t think we’re going to walk on the field and roll people. We have to work to continue to be successful.”
This season, the Wildcats bring back a big portion of their offense from last season, including quarterback Quentin Williams and running backs Anthony Jordan and Mike Jones.
Bethune-Cookman, which opens its season Saturday at Miami, does have some work to do on defense.
According to Sims — who worked as a defensive and special teams coach under Jenkins — the Wildcats lost seven of their top eight tacklers from last season.
“We have some holes to fill on defense,” Sims said. “We have some kids who are working hard and getting it done, trying to be the best they can be and doing what we’ve asked of them.”
Like Jenkins, Sims said playing Miami is a good for the Wildcats — despite the results.
Bethune-Cookman visited Sun Life Stadium in 2011 and ’12, with the Hurricanes outscoring the Wildcats by a combined score of 83-24.
With a large alumni base in South Florida and a big part of the Wildcats’ recruiting effort tied to the region, Sims says it’s a fun matchup for his fans and players.
“We have so many players from South Florida who have played with or against the Miami players,” he said. “We’re preparing for this like any other game. The chips will fall where they may, but we’re going to try our best to win that game. That’s what we there for.”
Although trying to make the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs has been the Wildcats’ goal in the past, that is off the table this season.
The MEAC has given up its automatic berth in the playoffs to instead have its champion face-off against the SWAC champ in the Celebration Bowl held Dec. 19 in Atlanta.
Having a bowl game to aim for is something Sims said his team is excited about.
“I like the change because it gives our kids a chance to compete to go to a bowl game,” he said. “I think that gives our guys a little extra juice. It’s a great thing to aim for, something to play for at the end of the year.”