CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.-University of New Hampshire head football coach Sean McDonnell was named the 19th winner of the Eddie Robinson National I-AA Football Coach of the Year Award on Thursday evening at "The Sports Network" awards dinner held at the Sheraton Road House Hotel in Chattanooga. The honor is given annually to the most outstanding head coach in all of Division I-AA college football.
The first UNH football coach to ever receive the honor at his alma mater, McDonnell joins a long list of outstanding I-AA football coaches including the likes Jerry Kill of Southern Illinois in 2004 and fellow Atlantic 10 head football coaches Mickey Matthews of James Madison in 1999 and Andy Talley of Villanova in 1997. Other New England area coaches who have taken home the honor include Dan Allen of Boston University in 1993 and Mark Duffner of Holy Cross, who won the first award in 1987.
McDonnell, who led his team to a UNH-record 11 wins (11-2 overall) and its second consecutive appearance in the NCAA I-AA quarterfinals, led his Wildcats to its first Atlantic 10 Football Conference championship since UNH took home the hardware back in 1994. Over the last two seasons, McDonnell's teams have posted an impressive overall record of 21-5. He also coached three All-Americans this past season in sophomore quarterback Ricky Santos, junior wide receiver David Ball and senior tight end Jonathan Williams. Santos was a top three-finalist for the Walter Payton Award and Ball finished seventh in the award voting. UNH was ranked No. 1 in the final regular season Sports Network I-AA Football poll under the direction of McDonnell.
Now in his seventh season as the head coach at UNH, McDonnell has recorded an overall winning record of 44-38.
McDonnell, who was also named New England Coach of the Year by the New England Football Writers, is a strong candidate to take home the American Football Coaches National Coach of the Year honors after being named District I Coach of the Year for the second consecutive season by the AFCA. The AFCA Coach of the Year Award will be announced on Tuesday, Jan. 10 at the AFCA Convention in Dallas.