Sean McDonnell
Sean McDonnell
Title: Head Coach
Phone: 603-862-1852
Year: 16th season
Previous College: UNH '78


Coach Mac and the Wildcats celebrate his 100th career victory | Oct. 6, 2012 | 44-21 at Georgia State |
Georgia Dome | Atlanta, Ga.

Sean McDonnell, a 1978 University of New Hampshire graduate, completed his 14th season as the head coach of his alma mater in 2012 with a career record of 104-66. Under his mentorship, the Wildcats have qualified for the NCAA Division I FCS postseason for nine straight seasons, the longest streak in the nation, and the ‘Cats have been ranked in the Top 25 for 126 consecutive polls, the longest streak in FCS football which dates back to Sept. 13, 2004.

In May 2013, McDonnell was honored by the Joe Yukica-New Hampshire Chapter of the National Football Foundation, which presented him with the Andy Mooradian Award for his contributions to amateur football.

The 2012 Wildcats earned a share of the CAA championship, the second in Coach Mac's career (2005), with a 6-2 league mark. The 'Cats compiled an 8-4 overall record that included an NCAA second-round game at Wofford. As a result, Coach Mac was tabbed the New England Division I Coach of the Year by the Gridiron Club of Greater Boston for the fourth time (2000, '04, '09, '12), earned his fourth New England Football Writers Division I FCS Coach of the Year honor ('05, '08, '10, '12) and was feted as the AFCA Regional Coach of the Year for the third time ('04, '05, '12).

The 2011 Wildcats matched a school record for the second straight year by knocking off five ranked opponents en route to an 8-4 mark, including 6-2 in the CAA.  The ‘Cats put a bow on their rivalry with Massachusetts by knocking off the Minutemen, 27-21, in the second Colonial Clash at Gillette Stadium, which was also the 74th and final scheduled meeting between the longtime rivals. UNH reclaimed the Brice-Cowell Musket with a 30-27 defeat of Maine in the regular-season finale and came within a blocked PAT of forcing overtime in a playoff loss at Montana State. Junior linebacker Matt Evans became the first Wildcat to ever be named the nation’s top defensive player when he won the Buck Buchanan Award, and senior quarterback Kevin Decker was crowned the CAA Offensive Player of the Year.

In 2010, McDonnell’s Wildcats collected victories against five ranked opponents, a University record, en route to an 8-5 campaign. UNH advanced to the quarterfinal round of the NCAA postseason for the sixth time in seven years after dispatching Bethune-Cookman, 45-20, in a second-round encounter before suffering a quarterfinal loss at eventual national championship game participant Delaware, 16-3. McDonnell was feted as the 2010 Division I FCS Coach of the Year by the New England Football Writers, his third such honor (2005, ’08). During the course of the ’10 campaign, the ‘Cats earned their 12th straight home victory –a school record- by shutting out No. 11 Richmond, 17-0, on Homecoming. Two weeks later, UNH made history by topping No. 12 UMass, 39-13, in the inaugural Colonial Clash at Gillette Stadium. The game was witnessed by 32,848 fans, the largest football crowd in CAA history. 

UNH finished 10-3 in 2009 and won its second straight CAA North Division championship. The Wildcats continued to be giant killers by knocking off an FBS opponent for the fifth straight time, securing a hard-fought 23-16 triumph at Ball State. Previous FBS opponents to feel the wrath of the Wildcats during the amazing upset run were Army (2008), Marshall (’07), Northwestern (’06) and Rutgers (’04). UNH was the only team to defeat eventual FCS national champion Villanova (28-24) on Homecoming. The Wildcats also posted an impressive win on the road at McNeese State, defeating the Cowboys, 49-13, in the first round of the NCAA playoffs. 

New Hampshire notched a 10-3 record in 2008, including a defeat of Southern Illinois in the first round of the NCAAs before a quarterfinal-round setback at Northern Iowa. UNH finished the season ranked No. 7 in most national polls, and McDonnell was honored as the New England FCS Coach of the Year for the second time .

In 2007, the Wildcats were 7-5 overall and just narrowly missed upsetting No. 1 Northern Iowa in the first round of the NCAAs, losing on a last-minute TD, 38-35, at the UNI Dome. The Wildcat offense, ranked 16th in the nation, averaged over 400 yards per contest.

The Wildcats were ranked as high as No. 1 in the nation in 2006 and finished the season ranked sixth after defeating Hampton in the first round (41-38) of the NCAAs. Among the regular-season highlights was senior All-America wide receiver David Ball making history by surpassing legendary Jerry Rice with 58 career TD receptions and junior quarterback Ricky Santos claiming the Walter Payton Award as the FCS football national player of the year.

In 2005, McDonnell was honored as the Eddie Robinson National Coach of the Year by The Sports Network after leading his Wildcats to a record-breaking 11-2 season, an Atlantic 10 Championship, a second straight NCAA appearance in the I-AA quarterfinals and the country’s No. 1 ranking at the end of the regular season. The Wildcats played host to two nationally-televised NCAA postseason games on ESPN at Cowell Stadium, beating Colgate in the first round before succumbing to Northern Iowa in the NCAA quarterfinals. 

McDonnell’s hard work rebuilding the program paid off in 2004 with a 10-3 overall record and a 6-2 mark in the Atlantic 10, which earned the team the Northern Division championship and a bid to the NCAA I-AA Championships for the first time since 1994. The ‘Cats advanced to the I-AA quarterfinals for the first time by virtue of a 27-23 upset win at Georgia Southern. McDonnell was named a finalist for the Eddie Robinson National Coach of the Year and was selected the Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year and the District Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA). 

In 2003, UNH began turning the corner by winning three of its last four contests, including an upset victory over nationally-ranked Maine. The team’s 5-7 record could have easily been above .500, as the ‘Cats narrowly lost to No. 1 Delaware on a missed field goal in the closing seconds, and UNH was driving for a potential game-winning TD late at Division I-A Central Michigan before running out of time. 

In 2002, McDonnell’s offense was one of the most prolific in I-AA football and averaged 449.2 yards per contest and 36.7 ppg. In victories over the likes of Hampton, James Madison, Dartmouth and Massachusetts the ‘Cats scored 37 ppg. and scored over 40 points in two of the victories. UNH finished with a 4-7 overall record in 2001.  

In 2000, the Wildcats were ranked as high as 23rd in the nation and knocked off three top-25 opponents, including Hampton (31-17), Massachusetts (24-16) and No. 2 Delaware (45-44 OT). Injuries squashed UNH’s chances for a playoff berth down the stretch, but UNH opened the campaign with a 4-0 record, its best start since 1977 when the Wildcats won seven straight games. UNH finished the season with a 6-5 record and finished tied for fourth in the Atlantic 10. McDonnell was named the Gridiron Club Of Greater Boston College Head Coach Of The Year.

In his rookie season, McDonnell led the Wildcats to a 5-6 overall record and oversaw a wide-open offensive attack that led the Atlantic 10 with an average of 457.3 yards per game. 

McDonnell was named the 19th head coach of the UNH football program April 22, 1999. McDonnell replaced legendary head coach Bill Bowes, who retired after 27 years as the mentor of the Wildcats.

McDonnell served eight seasons as a Wildcat assistant and completed his fifth year as the team’s offensive coordinator in 1998. McDonnell rejoined the Wildcats as an assistant coach before the 1991 spring camp and worked with the quarterbacks and receivers for his first two seasons. In 1997, McDonnell was named the recipient of “The College Assistant Coach Award” by the Gridiron Club of Greater Boston in recognition of his quality of performance, loyalty and longevity.

A native of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., McDonnell was a standout defensive back for UNH. He started for the 1975 and 1976 Yankee Conference championship teams and came back to start for the 1978 squad. After his graduation from UNH, he spent one year as an assistant coach at Manchester (N.H.) Memorial High School and followed that up with a three-year stint at Manchester West (1980-82). McDonnell worked as the defensive coordinator at Hamilton College for two seasons (1983-84) and subsequently spent three years (1985-87) coaching the receivers and tight ends at former conference-rival Boston University. During the 1988 campaign, McDonnell served as a graduate assistant coach at Boston College. He spent two seasons as an assistant at Columbia (1989-90) prior to his coaching debut in Durham. 

Sean and his wife, Jenny, reside in Durham and are the parents of two sons: Timmy and Tommy.


1999 5-6 (3-5 Atlantic 10)
2000 6-5 (4-4 Atlantic 10)
2001 4-7 (2-7 Atlantic 10)
2002 3-8 (2-7 Atlantic 10)
2003 5-7 (3-6 Atlantic 10)
2004 10-3 (6-2 Atlantic 10) NCAA quarterfinals
2005 11-2 (7-1 Atlantic 10, co-champions) NCAA quarterfinals
2006 9-4 (5-3 Atlantic 10) NCAA quarterfinals
2007 7-5 (4-4 CAA) NCAA first round
2008 10-3 (6-2 CAA) NCAA quarterfinals
2009 10-3 (6-2 CAA) NCAA quarterfinals
2010 8-5 (5-3 CAA) NCAA quarterfinals
2011 8-4 (6-2 CAA)

NCAA second round

2012 8-4 (6-2 CAA, co-champions) NCAA second round
Career 104-66 (65-50 CAA)



• New England Football Writers Coach of the Year (‘05, '08, '10, '12)
• Gridiron Club of Greater Boston Coach of Year ('00, '04, '09, '12)  
• Eddie Robinson National Coach of the Year (‘05)
• Eddie Robinson National Coach of the Year finalist ('04)

• Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year ('04)  
• Regional Coach of the Year, AFCA (‘04, '05, '12)
• Andy Mooradian Award, Joe Yukica-NH Chapter, NFF ('13)
College Coaching Experience
• University of New Hampshire (22 years) 1989-present
       º Head coach (14 years) 1999-present
       º Offensive coordinator (5 years) 1994-98
       º QB / WR coach (3 years) 1991-93
• Columbia University (2 years) 1989-90
• Boston College, grad assistant (1 year) 1988
• Boston University, WR/TE (3 years) 1985-87
• Hamilton College, defensive coordinator (2 years)



High School Coaching Experience  
• Manchester (N.H.) West, assistant coach (3 years) 1980-82
• Manchester (N.H.) Memorial, assistant coach (1 year) 1979
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