Paul Simmons is in his second season as head football coach in 2018. He had an historic first season as head coach, leading the Bisons to an 11-4 record, a berth in the national semifinals and an 11-game winning streak that included three consecutive road playoff wins over top-10 nationally ranked teams.
Simmons is Harding’s 13th head football coach in program history and the sixth since the university restarted football in 1959.
Simmons spent the previous 11 seasons as an assistant coach at Harding, joining the staff in 2006. He became Harding’s assistant head coach in 2008 and the defensive coordinator in 2010.
Simmons has coached in 10 Harding postseason games, including the 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2017 NCAA Division II Playoffs and the 2013 Live United Texarkana Bowl.
Simmons’ defensive linemen have received 18 all-conference honors since he joined the Harding coaching staff. Defensive end Ty Powell earned All-America honors in 2012 and played three seasons in the NFL. In 2016, defensive end Trevon Biglow received Great American Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
In Harding’s seven seasons in the GAC, Bison defenses have led the conference in total defense six times, scoring defense and rushing defense five times, and sacks four times. In 2017, Harding also led the GAC in defensive touchdowns, interceptions, recovered fumbles, red zone defense, and turnovers gained.
Under Simmons’ leadership, Harding’s defenses set GAC records for total defense (3,119 yards, 2012), sacks (40, 2013), red zone defense (54.8, 2012), rushing defense (762, 2013), yards allowed per carry (2.0, 2013) and rushing TD allowed (5, 2014).
Harding has ranked in the top 10 in rushing defense in four of the last five seasons, including second in 2013 and 2016 and third in 2014. In 2014, the Bisons allowed only three rushing TD during the entire regular season (two in the playoffs). In 2017, Harding was fifth nationally with 31 turnovers gained.
Before coming to Harding, Simmons coached at Harding Academy of Memphis for eight seasons, compiling a 51-38 record and leading the Lions to six state playoff trips. Led by Simmons, Harding Academy, who had never won a playoff game, advanced to the state semifinals four times.
Simmons served as a graduate assistant defensive line coach at Harding University from 1997-98.
He was defensive coordinator and assistant track coach at Harding Academy of Memphis during the 1996-97 school year.
Simmons was a three-time All-America honoree at Harding University as a linebacker and defensive end. He compiled 415 career tackles (second all-time at HU) and 18.0 sacks (fourth all-time at HU) and was inducted into the Harding Athletics Hall of Fame in 1999. Simmons is the only Harding football player ever to earn first team All-America honors three times.
Simmons earned his bachelor’s degree in social science from Harding University in 1995.
A native of Ashdown, Arkansas, he is married to the former Kimberly Hatcher of Jackson, Tennessee. The couple have three children.