|Jimmie Keeling's Cowboys went to the NCAA playoffs
six times, including a trip to the national semifinals in
D3sports.com file photo by Pat Coleman
After a long and successful high school coaching career, Jimmie Keeling took over the head coaching position at Hardin-Simmons.
Or, more accurately, he created it.
On Tuesday, he left the job, announcing his retirement. “I love Hardin-Simmons and I love Cowboy football, it was a super 21 years.” said Keeling. “It was time to let someone else do this. I am grateful that Dr. (Jesse) Fletcher and Dr. (Merln) Morrow took the chance and gave me the opportunity. I am indebted to all of the coaches and players that have come through here.”
The Cowboys had once played big-time football, taking on the big boys from their home in Abilene, Texas. But the program was shut down in 1963. Keeling took the job and restarted the program from scratch in 1990, going 3-6 with a team of all freshmen, then 5-5 in 1991. Since then, Hardin-Simmons has gone 164-42, with six trips to the Division III playoffs. In his career, he led the Cowboys to the playoffs – either NAIA or NCAA Division III – 11 times in his 21 seasons as the HSU coach. His teams won TIAA titles in 1993, 1994 and 1995 and American Southwest Conference titles in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2004.
This past season, Hardin-Simmons appeared destined for a seventh NCAA trip before falling on Saturday to Louisiana College in the season finale.
Jesse Burleson has been named the interim coach but Hardin-Simmons has opened the job for a national search. Two former Division III head coaches are on staff. Steve Barrows, who coached Anderson from 1999-2002, is co-defensive coordinator along with Jay Niemann, who coached Simpson from 2002-07.
“We will be active in our pursuit of the next person to continue the legacy of Cowboy football,” said athletic director John Neese. “We will go through the process as we have done with our other coaching positions and attempt to find the best person that will build on the success that Coach Keeling has enjoyed.”