Tim Simons, a Fresno Athletic Hall of Famer admired by his peers for reasons that run far deeper than wins and championships, has coached his final high school football game – at least as a head coach.
“This is tearing me up,” he said, “but I spent the whole Christmas break going over and over this a hundred times, and I came to a conclusion: Yep, this is the time.”
This is tearing me up, but I spent the whole Christmas break going over and over this a hundred times and I came to a conclusion: Yep, this is the time.
Simons, 74, went 249-94-7 in a 30-year career anchored at Clovis High. But it closed with a pair of two-year terms at Clovis North. His 247 wins at Clovis, Clovis North and Roosevelt rank second only to the late Leo Robinson of Woodlake (290-129-11, 1962-2002) in section victories, according to historian Bob Barnett.
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Yet Simons said he wasn’t on a Robinson chase: “No, and I don’t want anybody to catch Leo; he belongs at the top.”
Clovis North’s 7-5 season in the fall, ironically, closed with a 28-14 loss to Clovis on Nov. 27 at Lamonica Stadium in a section Division I semifinal.
Simons’ career was highlighted from 1976 to 1999 at Clovis, where he went 218-61-6 (.775) with five section titles, four runner-up finishes and 11 league championships in 24 years while launching a Clovis Unified District into an athletic empire under the late Floyd “Doc” Buchanan.
And it was a signature stance of Buchanan, who died in August, that influenced Simons’ decision to turn in his whistle.
“Doc used to say, ‘You’ve got to run through the tape,’ ” Simons said in a Friday afternoon interview at Lamonica Stadium. “And I feel if I retire now, I will have run through the tape. We had a successful season, my health was good, my energy was good, and I think I worked as hard as ever. I didn’t want to hang on where I wouldn’t be that way and limp through the finish line; that would be shortchanging the players. So I’m going to heed Doc’s words, running through the tape, and this is it.”
But, perhaps, not entirely for the 1959 Fresno High graduate, who also has assisted for 16 years – seven at Clovis, where he was hired in 1967; seven at Fresno State under former coach Pat Hill; and two at Fresno City College under Tony Caviglia.
Asked if this also precludes the possibility of coaching again, somewhere, as an assistant, he said: “Nope, I wouldn’t say that. I went out for the B football team at Fresno High at 15 years old and have been involved in football ever since. That’s a long time, and I don’t know that I could all of a sudden, after 58 years in the game, say I’m done, go cold turkey and never be around it again.”
All he said for certain is that he will continue to assist Clovis North athletic director Coby Lindsey through June.
Simons, continually adjusting to his talent and evolutions of the game with efficient offenses ranging from run-based wishbone option to pass-oriented spread, had but four losing seasons, according to Barnett.
4 Losing seasons in Simons’ 30-year career
The first two opened his career at Lennox (2-6-1) of Southern California in 1973 and Roosevelt (3-6-1) in 1975. The other two came in 2009-10 (both 5-7) in Clovis North’s first two varsity seasons.
But Simons and his peers say his career is not best defined in numbers, rather in continuity and relationships he established with his assistants. Never was that more evident than at Clovis, where John Sexton and Jack Erdman went wire-to-wire with him, Cliff Wetzel and Mike Freeman all but one season, Larry Kellom for 20, and Bill Biggs joined the cast later.
It was a given that all could have left at any time to become head coaches, yet they remained faithful to Simons.
“We had a unique thing going here,” Simons said while standing in the west end zone. “It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen or will see again.”
Sexton agreed: “Why would I have wanted to leave? I was enjoying myself, and Tim always trusted me, which I very much appreciated.
“Tim just had a love of the sport, was committed, loyal to his assistants and friends and had a constant yearning to learn and stay on top of football.”
Tim just had a love of the sport, was committed, loyal to his assistants and friends and had a constant yearning to learn and stay on top of football.
John Sexton, who assisted Simons for 24 years at Clovis
Mike Vogt, Reedley’s coach and former longtime coach at Buchanan, stood in applause of Simons: “What I think first about him was his leadership ability and to keep everybody going in the same direction to establish that longevity. Tim was always helpful with opposing coaches while trying to promote the game of football. He was humble, never selfish and almost apologetic when he walked across the field to shake your hand after beating you. I really admire him.”
Asked to define his own career, Simons said: “It wasn’t just about wins or championships or losses or games, it was relationships with players and coaches that last a lifetime. That’s a huge part of a career if you have a long one.”
And he did, particularly at Lamonica Stadium, where he walked out on a chilled Friday with a bleeding heart.
“There’s turmoil inside of me,” he said. “This is really pulling me apart. But, well, I’m convinced I’ve made the right decision.
“I ran through the tape.”