Donnelly started his head coaching career at Austin Peay, taking a program that had never won a football championship to an Ohio Valley Conference title in his first season on the job. After two seasons and a 14-7 record, he left APSU for his alma mater where he would spend the next 20 years leading the Blue Raiders to unprecedented success.
Donnelly led MT to nine top 20 regular-season finishes and seven NCAA I-AA playoff appearances, guiding Middle Tennessee to a 31-game home winning streak from 1987-93. He won or shared the Ohio Valley Conference title five times, was named the OVC Coach of the Year four times, and is the only coach in OVC history to win a conference title at two different schools.
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