BOISE, IDAHO -- Almost four years ago, Capital High football coach Todd Simis ('90 BS, '91 MAT) was the subject of controversy.
Fans, boosters, players and their parents questioned why a school with so much history and success on the football field -- just six losing seasons in 43 years -- would hire a coach who won only four games in six years.
Flash forward to 2007, when the questions have been replaced by cheers and atta-boys for Simis as his Eagles (8-2) prepare to host Lake City (8-2) in a 5A state semifinal at 7 p.m. Friday at Bronco Stadium.
"I met a lot of resistance when we hired Todd, but if I told the Capital community today that we were making a change and he wasn't going to be our coach, I would face even more criticism," Capital principal Jon Ruzicka said.
Simis, 39, went 4-51 in six years at Boise High -- including winless seasons in 1999, 2000 and 2003 -- and wasn't a popular pick to replace Steve Vogel, who led Capital to its most recent state title in 1991. Ruzicka said he fielded phone calls and letters protesting Simis' hire, some parents quit the booster club and some players threatened to transfer.
"I'm sure there are a lot of people out there that want to see me fail that either supported somebody else for this job or wanted this job," Simis said in the summer of 2004.
He hasn't failed.
In four seasons under Simis, the Eagles are 26-14 with playoff appearances in 2004, 2005 and 2007. Capital also advanced to the semifinals in 2004 and missed the 2006 playoffs, despite posting a 6-3 regular-season record. In the two seasons prior to Simis' hire, the Eagles were a combined 8-12.
"He's a winner on the field and inthe classroom," Ruzicka said. "That's what really separated Todd from the other applicants. He teaches American government for us, and he's top-notch in the classroom. He's a great teacher, a great dad, a great husband and a great coach, because he cares about the kids. The winning takes care of itself."
Simis was confident all along.
"I knew people would want to know what was going on, and I felt privileged to get the opportunity," Simis said. "I knew when we put our program in place, we would be successful. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't anxious, but I knew we'd be OK."
Simis silenced many critics when Capital opened the 2004 season with a 41-24 victory over then-defending state champion Centennial.
"The proof is in the pudding," said Capital booster club membership chairman Brent Carr, who was the club's president-elect at the time of Simis' hiring. "He's done a terrific job, and the community has really gotten behind him. I tip my hat to Todd, because he gets a lot out of the kids. They love to play for him and he's silenced the critics. I've been very impressed."
After the Centennial win, the Eagles continued their success under the leadership of Simis, who led Gooding to back-to-back 2A state titles in 1984 and '85 as the team's quarterback.
"Capital is the one place I wanted to be," Simis said. "It felt great to get off to a good start, and I think a lot of the people who had questions have come around. I'm sure they wanted to wait and see, but once the first season took off, the support has been incredible. It's been awesome. It's like I tell the players, It's great to be a Capital Eagle.' "
Simis also is grateful Boise gave him his first opportunity to be a head coach after he served as an assistant for the Braves under Rich Gagnon for six years. Prior to that, he guided East Junior High's ninth-grade team to a city title in 1991.
"We lost a lot of games, but I was never ashamed of the effort those kids gave me, and I had some great years there," Simis said. "They gave me a chance to coach. In some cases, the best coaching is taking place at schools like that. If you take some of those coaches right now and put them in the right situation, they'll be successful."
Used with permission of the Idaho Statesman.