KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The former head football coach at a Kansas community college where a defensive lineman died of exertional heatstroke after the first day of practice says the death was an act of God.
The comment by former head coach Jeff Sims comes nearly one year after 19-year-old Braeden Bradforth collapsed on Aug. 1, 2018, following practice at Garden City Community College. Sims made the remark to KCUR on Wednesday during football media day for the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in Kansas City, Missouri.
Sims left Garden City Community College after the 2018 season to take the head coaching job at Missouri Southern University in Joplin.
“It’s unfortunate what happened, but God has a plan,” Sims told KCUR.
He insisted Bradforth’s death was not his fault, but instead an act of God.
“We’ve had two investigations, and everybody knows what happened that day,” Sims said. “It didn’t happen at football practice; it happened after football practice.”
Assistant football coach Caleb Young told officials Bradforth was “making a stressful moan” when he arrived at the scene to help, but rather than immediately dial 911 he called Sims “for instruction to see how we wanted to handle the situation.” Emails obtained by The Associated Press in an open records request, coupled with other documents, detail a chaotic nearly 25-minute period between when teammates found Bradforth in an alley outside his dorm and when paramedics finally were contacted.
Multiple players told KCUR and other media that Sims refused to let players drink during practice.
Echoing the internal investigation, Sims said that there were “60 gallons of water available,” but he wouldn’t say when he allowed players to get a drink of water.
Since the death, the school has made changes aimed at improving player health and safety — hiring two more trainers and a conditioning coach. It also conducted an internal investigation and agreed to hire a law firm to do an independent investigation after intense pressure from the entire New Jersey U.S. House delegation and Bradforth’s mother.
Sims confirmed that he will cooperate with the outside law firm hired to investigate Bradforth’s death.
Bradforth was from Neptune, New Jersey, where the air is much thicker than in Garden City. His death happened on the first day of conditioning practice, when players were required to run 50-yard sprints 36 times.
Greg McVey, who was hired as athletic director at the college in April, said the school will not work players so hard that they are in danger.
“I can assure you, from my leadership, we will ensure that everybody we put on that field is sound enough to be out there,” he told KCUR at a trustees meeting.