For Darryl Sims, being athletics director at Wisconsin-Oshkosh means more than running the school’s 19 intercollegiate programs. It also means bridging the gap between the university and the community.
Sims, in his fourth year in charge of Titans athletics, has excelled at that goal, as the campus is a place where the city of 66,000 can gather.
Sims was part of a development team that helped raise $10.5 million to renovate the Oshkosh Sports Complex. The project began in 2007 and included amenities to benefit the entire community.
Elementary and middle schools in Oshkosh can schedule events on the warmup track on campus, and three Oshkosh high schools use the facility to host football games, soccer matches and track and field events.
Additionally, on days with no football games, community groups can host gatherings in the meeting rooms.
“The university has always played a major role in the economic vitality of Oshkosh,” said Sims, an all-Big Ten defensive end at Wisconsin in the early 1980s. “This is a partnership between the university and the Oshkosh community. It has been that way for a long time. We will be partners in the future.”
Developing the sports facilities has been fulfilling for Sims, although being a college athletics administrator wasn’t his first professional goal.
After leaving Wisconsin, Sims was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round (20th overall) of the 1985 NFL Draft. He also played for the Cleveland Browns before retiring after the 1988 season.
Sims began to pursue a coaching career that led him to arena football and a part-time assistant position at Wisconsin-Oshkosh. He then went to NFL Europe, where he was an assistant for the Amsterdam Admirals and head coach of the Cologne Centurions. He also worked as the defensive line coach of the Oakland Raiders in 2006.
“At that point, my wife and I had to make a decision on whether to continue down that road or go into something that provided more stability,” said Sims, who has a bachelor’s in speech communications and a master’s in educational leadership from Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
After working as assistant athletics director in charge of development and operations, Sims applied for the director of athletics job.
“My student-athlete days helped me learn to get through the demands on my time and certainly have prepared me for the role I’m in right now,” said Sims, the outgoing chair of the Division III Interpretations and Legislation Committee. “I try to bring the things I learned as a student-athlete and as a coach and apply them to the day-to-day interaction I have with our 550-plus student-athletes, coaches, administrators, faculty and the people in the community.”