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NCAA says 'rules did not matter' to former football coach at Missouri Southern State University

Stephan Bisaha
Kansas News Service

The NCAA's report alleges violations by Missouri Southern State University and coach Jeff Sims, who started at MSSU after the death of a player while he was head coach at Garden City Community College.

The former football coach at the center of the death of a Kansas junior college player has been accused by the NCAA of major violations “where compliance was an afterthought, if not entirely dismissed and disregarded.”

The violations were leveled in a 25-page report against Jeff Sims and Missouri Southern State University in Joplin.

Sims coached at MSSU for only two years. During that time, the NCAA investigation suggested, Sims had little regard for the rules.

“He set a tone in his program whereby his own actions and words demonstrated that NCAA rules did not matter,” the NCAA said in its report, issued by the Division II Committee on Infractions.

Before taking the job at MSSU, Sims was head football coach at Garden City Community College. Sims was coaching there in August 2018, when freshman offensive lineman Braedon Bradforth died of exertional heat stroke after a grueling workout on the second day he was on campus.

An investigation paid for by GCCC a year after Bradforth's death blamed "a striking lack of leadership" by top college officials, including Sims.

Sims left Garden City after the 2018 season to take the head coaching job at MSSU. The university fired him in 2020, giving no reason but paying Sims $110,000 in severance.

The NCAA’s report suggests one reason MSSU might have parted ways with Sims so quickly.

“Apart from directly committing and not addressing known violations, the head coach created and maintained an adversarial environment between his program, athletics leadership and compliance professionals,” the NCAA said in its report.

Among other violations, the investigation uncovered that Sims convinced a MSSU booster to pay a back tuition bill for a GCCC player so that player could transfer to Missouri Southern to play for Sims.

The NCAA began investigating the program in April 2020 when the university’s human resources department learned of potential violations during an exit interview with an assistant coach, the report said.

MSSU and the NCAA agreed to penalties including three years’ probation for the football program, a reduction in football scholarships and a $5,000 fine.

“Since the time of the violations, both the football program and athletic department are under new leadership,” MSSU said in a statement.

“Today, as we move forward,” added University President Dean Van Galen, “Missouri Southern is committed to a highly competitive NCAA Division II athletics program that supports a great student-athlete experience and prioritizes achieving these goals within a culture of compliance.”

Sims is out of coaching and now works for a moving company in Lenexa.

Sam covers education for KCUR and the Kansas News Service. Before joining the station in August 2014 he covered health and education for KCPT.