Q&A with Coach Simmons
Quotes on Coach Simmons
With over a decade of experience bringing programs to the top, Northern Illinois' Steve Simmons is recognized as one of the top coaches in collegiate men's soccer.
With the conclusion of the 2007 season, Simmons' team capped a four-year run in which the Huskies won 45 matches, equaling a school-record for the most wins in four seasons. In that time, NIU has won a Mid-American Conference Championship, gone to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, defeated a top-10 team, and had players honored 21 times with All-MAC accolades.
The 2007 year saw some of Simmons' best career highlights. The Huskies upset then-No. 9 Northwestern, 2-1, in double overtime, and played to stalemates with No. 9 Notre Dame and No. 22 Akron. Seniors Marcus McCarty and Steve Algozino were awarded All-MAC honors, and sophomore Kyle Knotek was named Academic All-MAC for his 4.0 GPA in business.
Simmons' most outstanding professional recognition came after guiding his team to the 2006 Mid-American Conference Championship, when he was honored with the Great Lakes Region Coach of the Year Award from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. The honor made him Northern Illinois' first finalist for the NSCAA Coach of the Year Award. He has also filled his shelf with Mid-American Conference hardware, winning the MAC Gary V. Palmisano Coach of the Year Award twice (2004, 2006) in five years at NIU.
Simmons earned the 2006 awards after his team achieved the best season in Huskie men's soccer history. NIU's first MAC Men's Soccer Champion, the team finished the season with a school-record 15 wins, including a perfect 9-0-0 mark at home, and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Simmons' defense-first philosophy led to the unprecedented success of the 2006 campaign. Goalkeeper Joe Zimka set an NCAA Division I record by allowing just 0.21 goals against per match, and the Huskies notched 14 shutouts, tied for the most in the country. Seven of those shutout performances came during an eight-match unbeaten streak in which NIU played No. 21 Notre Dame to a double-overtime tie, and defeated conference foes Bowling Green, IPFW, Western Michigan, and two-time defending MAC champion Akron. The 15-win 2006 season saw the Huskies ranked as high as 19th on the NSCAA's Top-25, and punctuated an impressive three-year run in which the Huskies won 38 matches.
Eleven of those 38 wins came from the effort in 2005. The Huskies rode a 736:31 shutout streak to a seven-match unbeaten run that peaked with a No. 22 national ranking. Driven by conference victories over Bowling Green, Western Michigan, Buffalo and IPFW, Northern Illinois finished as the runner-up in the MAC for the second straight season. It was the first time the Huskies had finished in the top two in their conference in consecutive seasons since 1989-90.
That 11-6-2 campaign of 2005 was a solid encore to 2004's impressive 12-7-0 record. The Huskies won eight more games in 2004 than the the year before, the nation's second-best turnaround. Northern Illinois rose to second-place in the MAC regular-season standings at 4-2-0. Simmons' second-year results were highlighted by a 1-0 victory over defending MAC champion Kentucky.
The 2004 season saw the MAC award Curt Zastrow with Freshman of the Year honors, and place five other NIU players on its All-MAC teams. The turnaround engineered by Simmons made him Northern Illinois' first winner of the Mid-American Conference Gary V. Palmisano Coach of the Year Award.
The foundation for Simmons' reconstruction efforts can be traced back to 2003, his first season in DeKalb. Faced with a program slowed by graduation and injuries, Simmons utilized a line-up with six freshmen. The Huskies won three contests in 2003, including MAC wins over Marshall and Buffalo, and lost nine matches by a single goal.
Prior to coming to NIU, Simmons spent two seasons as associate coach for Oregon State, where he worked with defenders and goalkeepers under Beaver coach Dana Taylor. His teaching was evident in 2002 when OSU climbed to No. 18 in the national polls during a nine-week run in the top-25. Oregon State earned its first trip to the NCAA College Cup as part of a 13-8-0 campaign that was highlighted by victories over No. 6-rated California and No. 12 Tulsa.
Simmons moved to Corvallis afer a succesful five-year stint as head men's and women's coach at Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore. He took over a men's program coming off a 1-15-0 campaign in 1995 and built the Wildcats into a successful program. After an 8-11-0 debut in 1996 and a 7-12-1 mark in 1997, his team reached double digits in victories for the first time with a 10-10-0 record in 1998. Simmons' team followed that up with 12-7-1 record in 1999, and made a trip to the 2000 Final Four, where a loss to the eventual national champion ended a 21-1-1 season.
Simmons began his coaching career as an assistant at Gonzaga University in 1994 and gained his first head coaching post the following summer at Division III Whitworth College (Spokane, Wash.). His 9-8-2 record that year gave him Northwest Conference Coach of the Year honors and led to his move to fellow Northwest Conference member Linfield. With the Wildcats, he gained his second NWC Coach of the Year plaque in 2000. Between Linfield and Whitworth, Simmons compiled a head coaching record of 67-49-5 (.574).
As a collegian, Simmons netted First-Team All-America honors from the National Christian College Athletic Association as well as NAIA Academic All-America recognition as a senior at Concordia University-Portland. He was a two-time (1988, 1989) NAIA Northwest All-Region selection and gained Concordia's Male Athlete of the Year Award in 1990 before earning a spot on the school's Athletics Wall of Fame in 1993.
A graduate of Chugiak High School in Eagle River, Alaska, Simmons completed a bachelor of arts degree in business administration from Concordia in June, 1990. He was awarded his Master of Arts in physical education from Gonzaga in 1996.
Simmons is married to the former Maria Ballantyne of Salem, Ore. The couple has three children: sons Keagan, 11, and Jordan, 7, and daughter, Katey, 10.