The Times West Virginian

July 26, 2013

FURFARI COLUMN: Sims still ranks among WVU’s top all-time punters

By Mickey Furfari
Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — Robert “Bob” Sims was an outstanding punter for West Virginia University in 1970-71-72.

The Zanesville, Ohio, native also saw action at defensive end and was a top-notch pole-vaulter in track and field.

Sims, who still resides in Zanesville, reached a peak in punting when he reportedly led the nation with a 48-yard punting average. His longest punt carried 70 yards.

He earned three letters in football, after playing on a freshman team as required by the NCAA in 1969. He was a varsity team captain as a senior.

Sims, who was coached by Dale Evans as a freshman, punted 93 times for 3,412 yards at WVU. He still ranks 13th on the school’s all-time career list with a career average of 38.8 yards per punt.

Unfortunately, defensive statistics apparently weren’t recorded when he performed as a Mountaineer.

Asked whether he enjoyed playing three years for Bobby Bowden, Sims replied, “Well, I’ve got some mixed feelings with Coach Bowden. I thought he was a good man. I thought he was a good coach. But I thought a couple times he dropped the ball.

“In the 1972 Peach Bowl (a 49-13 loss to N.C. State) and the 1970 game at Pitt when we had a 35-8 lead at halftime and wound up losing by 36-35. How could anyone forget those games?

“One of my high school buddies was a captain for Pitt, and he reminded me of that last weekend at our 45th high school reunion.”

However, Sims recalled that the Mountaineers gained a double dose of revenge against Pitt in ’71 and ’72 by winning 29-9 and 38-20.

He also helped WVU to quality victories against Indiana, Syracuse twice, Boston College and Virginia.

Sims, who played football, basketball, and track and field at Zanesville High, also remembers that WVU would have upset Penn State once if there hadn’t been proven officiating mistakes on two of the Nittany Lions’ touchdowns in a 28-19 contest in 1972.

“I loved playing football at West Virginia,” Sims exclaimed. “That was pretty special.”

But there were times when defensive end practice did take up some of his time to practice his punting, though his hang time and distance remained impressive.

A 1973 graduate of WVU with a degree in physical education, he never did play in the NFL. But he did perform one year with a semi-pro team in Wheeling.

In the meantime, former WVU teammate Jim Braxton, then a fullback with the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, phoned Sims during the 1973 pro draft and said the Bills were thinking of picking Sims in the second or third round.

“But Braxton called me back and said he was told that somebody on Bowden’s staff – he didn’t say who – made the comment that I had a bad attitude,” Sims recalled.

“The Bills (told Braxton) ‘they’re not going to give you a shot.’ That’s why I have mixed feelings (toward Bowden) because up to that point I thought I had pretty good relationships with WVU coaches and Coach Bowden.

“That just ruined my future.”

He stood 6-foot-2 and weighed 235 pounds.

Bob and his wife Joy have been married about 35 years. They have two grown daughters, Darcey and Jenna.