JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Southern State has dismissed coach Jeff Sims, who was coach at Garden City (Kansas) Community College in 2018 when a 19-year-old football player died of heat stroke.
Athletic director Jared Bruggeman announced Sims' firing on Wednesday but did not give a reason. Sims was in his second year at Missouri Southern but the team did not play this season because of the coronavirus pandemic. They went 2-9 in his first season, ending with a three-game skid.
Sims said he didn’t know the reason for his firing but noted Missouri Southern hired a new president, Dean Van Galen, this year, The Joplin Globe reported.
“I had a contract, and they exercised their options in the contract,” he said. “We shook hands and went opposite directions. I’m not privy to what they’re wanting to do.”
In August 2018, Braeden Bradforth of Neptune, New Jersey, collapsed and died of exertional heatstroke after a workout at Garden City Community College. An investigation found Bradforth’s death was caused by “a striking lack of leadership” by top college officials, including Sims.
Bradforth’s family settled a lawsuit against the college earlier this year for $500,000.
A year after Bradforth died, Sims told KCUR in Kansas City that the death was not his fault, adding “It’s unfortunate what happened, but God has a plan.”
“Sims leaving must be an act of God, which was his initial response to the media when Braeden died,” Joanne Atkins-Ingram, Braeden’s mother, said Wednesday.
“The question that comes to mind for me and Joanne is why he was hired in the first place,” said the family's attorney, Jill Greene. “Why was he ever considered as a potential hire for that position after what happened at Garden City?”
“We can only hope that Braeden didn’t pass in vain and that there will be changes in how things are handled at the high school and college level, and even professionally,” Greene said.