About Head Coach Paul Nichols

  • Davidson '03
  • Fourth Season
  • Recruiting areas: Eastern Georgia, Charlotte (980 area code)
  • Twitter: @Coach_Nichols

Paul Nichols ’03 enters his fourth season as the head coach of his alma mater in 2016.

He was named to the post by Director of Athletics Jim Murphy on Dec.  21, 2012, and is the program's 27th head coach.

In 2015, the Wildcats finished 2-9 overall and 1-7 in the Pioneer Football League, marking the first time since 2012 that the 'Cats recorded multiple victories. 

The program landed seven Wildcats on the 2015 All-Pioneer Football League teams, including standout wide receiver William Morris earning his second-straight All-PFL First Team honor. 

In his second season, the Wildcats were led by Morris on the All-PFL first team, while freshman running back Jeffrey Keil was named PFL Freshman Offensive of the Year. Davidson earned its first Allstate Good Works Team honoree since 2010 as linebacker Dan Casey was honored at the 2015 Sugar Bowl. 

In his first season at the helm, the Wildcats were led by Matt Casey on the All-PFL team, had three representatives on the Academic All-PFL team, and 39 players were named to the PFL Academic Honor Roll. Additionally, Morris ranked ninth in the nation in receiving yards per game and Nichols' punt return defense ranked fourth in the nation.

Nichols, who was a coach at the Football Bowl Subdivision level starting in 2004, is the second youngest head coach in all of NCAA Division I football, born January 25, 1981.

In 2012, Nichols served as the director of player personnel at Illinois last season. In that position, he coordinated on-campus recruiting efforts and relations with high school coaches, among other duties, for head coach Tim Beckman and the Fighting Illini staff.

Prior to his time at Illinois, Nichols spent three seasons on Beckman's staff at Toledo as co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach, where he played a vital role in the transformation of the Rockets' defense.

In 2011, Nichols helped guide the Rockets to a 9-4 record and a win over Air Force in the Military Bowl. Toledo was 7-1 in the MAC and shared the West Division title. Defensively, the Rockets forced 30 turnovers on the season (ranking 16th nationally) and ranked third nationally in turnover margin (+1.23). In 2010, UT increased its forced turnovers from 21 to 34, the fifth-highest takeaway total in the nation, as the Rockets made their first bowl appearance in five years.

Before making his way to Toledo, Nichols served as an assistant at Marshall University for three seasons, where he coached All-Conference USA safety Curtis Keyes (2006) and All-Freshman cornerback Zearrick Matthews (2006).

Prior to his tenure at Marshall, Nichols completed two seasons as a graduate assistant at Ohio State from 2004-05 where he assisted with the defensive backs and defensive line.

A native of Dunwoody, Ga., Nichols graduated from Davidson College in 2003 with bachelor's degrees in political science and history. Nichols was a first-team All-Pioneer League and a first-team Pioneer League All-Academic selection as a senior, and was named honorable mention All-America by Don Hansen's Football Gazette.

In 2000, he quarterbacked Davidson to its first-and-only undefeated season, returned to his alma mater to serve as the football program’s 27th head coach.

Nichols departed as the school record holder for career passing yards (5,822), completions (465) and touchdown passes (51), and compiled a 22-6 record as a starting quarterback. After seeing limited action as a freshman, Nichols won the starting job prior to his sophomore year and guided the ‘Cats to a 10-0 season. His junior year was cut short by a knee injury, but Nichols bounced back as a senior and matched the school record for touchdown passes in a single season with 25.

Nichols now ranks third in passing yards and completions after being surpassed by Ryan Alexander ’08 and Jonathan Carkhuff '14. He is also now second to Alexander in career passing touchdowns, with Carkhuff needing just six more touchdown passes to move past Nichols in that category.

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. He joins Matt Spear ’93 (men’s soccer) as the only other Davidson alum currently serving as a head coach at Davidson.

Nichols and his wife, the former Lauran Lightmas, a 2004 graduate of Davidson, have two sons, Drew and Jack.

What They’re Saying About Paul Nichols...
“We're very pleased to have Paul Nichols return to Davidson as our Head Football Coach.  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.  Paul and his family understand the Davidson culture and he's a great fit for us. It's good to see him back.”
Jim Murphy - Director of Athletics, Davidson

“You’re not just getting a quality coach - you’re getting a quality person and family. I have been with Paul, and Lauran for the past four years, and they are a true football family. Paul is an excellent coach and motivator.  He will be a terrific addition to the Davidson football program and community.”
Tim Beckman - Former Illinois Head Coach

“Paul Nichols is one of the brightest, innovative, hard-working coaches in America. The Wildcat Nation is in store for a wonderful future under the caring guidance of Coach Nichols. His blood is red, black, and white, and his love for Davidson is unmatched."
Jim Tressel - Former Ohio State Head Coach

Hometown: Dunwoody, Ga.
Birthdate: Jan. 25, 1981
Family: Wife, Lauran; Sons, Drew and Jack
Education: B.S., history and political science - Davidson, 2003
Playing Experience: Davidson, 1999-2002

2012-pr.: Davidson (Head Coach)
2012: Illinois (Director of Player Personnel)
2009-11: Toledo (Co-Defensive Coordinator/Safeties)
2006-08: Marshall (Cornerbacks, 2007-08; Secondary, 2006)
2004-05: Ohio State (Graduate Assistant)