By Mark Brumbaugh
The assistant coaches for newly-minted head football coach Paul Nichols ’03 are already speculating on whether the meticulously organized, hard-working, energetic coach even goes home.
Nichols, who guided Davidson to a 22–6 record as the starting quarterback during his own Wildcat career, has been hard at work looking to turn around a program that has not had a winning season since 2007.
In his introductory press conference Dec. 21, 2012, he announced the start of “Operation: Just One Agenda,” which involves not only becoming one of the top teams in the Pioneer Football League, but also seeing continued success in the classroom and in the community. Nichols’ belief in the program is rooted in his time as a Davidson student athlete, which he cites as the greatest experience of his life (following, of course, marrying the former Lauran Lightmas ’04 and the birth of his son, Drew, in 2011).
As a freshman in 1999, making just his third appearance, Nichols entered a game at Georgetown University on the final play of the third quarter and then led a 21-point comeback for an improbable 28–27 victory (Davidson was a whopping 48-point underdog entering the game). As a sophomore, Nichols quarterbacked Davidson to its first and only undefeated season. A knee injury abbreviated his junior season, but as a senior he was a first-team all-league and all-academic selection, and even garnered an honorable mention All-America nod, as he graduated as Davidson’s career passing yards, completions, and touchdown passes record holder.
Now Nichols is the first Davidson alumnus to guide the football program on a full-time basis since Dave Fagg ’58, who finished his second coaching stint with the Wildcats following the 1992 season.
Although Nichols is the second-youngest head coach in all of NCAA Division I football, he has been coaching in the esteemed Football Bowl Subdivision since 2004. He spent two seasons at Ohio State as a graduate assistant and then earned his first full-time job at Marshall University, where he spent three seasons. Nichols next spent three seasons at The University of Toledo as co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach, which included a bowl victory, and he most recently served as the director of player personnel for one season at the University of Illinois.
“Since his days as a player, Paul’s commitment and determination have led to significant success, and I have high expectations for our football program under his leadership,” said Athletic Director Jim Murphy ’78. “Paul and his family understand the Davidson culture, and he’s a great fit for us. It’s good to see him back.”
The 1999 Georgetown victory was a huge milestone win for Davidson football, as it was the first win over an NCAA Division I opponent in 18 years. Davidson now has an established Division I program, but Nichols will look to continue to take Wildcat football to new heights as the head coach.
The Davidson football season opens Sept. 7, 2013. As fate would have it, the game will be at Georgetown.