Quotes from Today's Press Conference on Boots Donnelly

January 15, 2002 · MT Media Relations
Dr. Sidney McPhee
"Approximately five months ago, I began to search to select the permanent athletic director for Middle Tennessee State University. When I initiated the search, I wanted and envisioned an open and fair process that would attract candidates that would compete for this position. My one and only goal then, which remains my goal today, is to find the best person, in my opinion, to lead our athletic department at this most critical time in its growth and development. I believe I have accomplished that goal today.

"With the help of Dan Parker from Baker, Parker Executive Search Firm, a pool of over 50 applicants was identified, and those individuals were considered from a nationwide group of individuals. The executive search consultant recommended, in my estimation, six outstanding finalists, who were brought to campus for interviews last week. Certainly I think from all of us who were involved in that process, we would agree that anyone of those six individuals not only were capable but certainly have the potential of accomplishing the goals and objectives that I outlined at the beginning of the process and would be able to do the job.

"I'd like to thank the members of the advisory search committee, many of who are here this morning, for their dedication, commitment and time they put into this process. They provided valuable feedback, input and certainly I took their advice under consideration. I would also like to give special recognition to Mr. Charlie Myatt for his excellent work as chair of this search advisory committee.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to announce to you today that after a comprehensive national search, it is my intention to recommend to the Tennessee Board of Regents, and upon their approval of this appointment, Mr. James "Boots" Donnelly as the fifth Director of Athletics for Middle Tennessee State University.

"After much deliberation, consultation and reflection, I've concluded that Coach Donnelly is capable and has the potential to take our athletic department to the next level in its growth and development. In his interview with the committee and with me, Coach Donnelly presented an impressive action-oriented plan designed to move the athletic department forward. I had an opportunity after the interviews to read all the documentation that was submitted to me, and I've had the opportunity in the past to look at strategic plans, and I will tell you this document that he presented, that he discussed with me in detail certainly was second to none, and I believe with his plan, it is certainly consistent with my strategic direction for this department and for the university.

"His experience as a former coach, his knowledge of this university and the state, his considerable contacts locally, statewide, nationwide, his love for this university, and finally, his enthusiasm and energy for this job has convinced me at this time he indeed is the best candidate to assume the leadership of this department. I sincerely believe Coach Donnelly will provide strong leadership in enhancing our fundraising efforts, increasing our fan support for our athletic programs, improving out athletic facilities and balancing the athletic budget.

"Blue Raider fans and supporters, it is certainly my pleasure to introduce to you the fifth athletic director of Middle Tennessee State University, Coach James "Boots" Donnelly."

James "Boots" Donnelly
"There is an old Irish saying that if you're lucky enough to be born Irish, you're lucky enough. I was born Irish, but then again I was lucky enough and fortunate enough to marry a lovely lady who's been my wife for 36 years. I was also lucky enough to work at this university for 20-some-odd years as a coach and now I'm lucky enough to be the athletic director. So being Irish, being lucky enough has been awfully good to me.

"I want to thank Dr. McPhee for showing the confidence and giving me this opportunity. Let me say something about the interview process. The interview process Dr. McPhee put together was put together primarily for one reason, and I hope I explain this correctly to each and every one of you. It took me a while to get it also.

"Dr. McPhee made a statement when he first came to this campus that he wanted the best qualified people to run each and every department, and therefore he wanted a national search. What that search did, it allowed me to get competitive again. I couldn't understand it at first, but what it did, it gave us all a level playing field. He wanted to take out all the doubts. He wanted to take out anything as far as friendship was concerned. He wanted production. He wanted individuals that could do the job. And as I thought more and more about it, I got more and more competitive. So I decided that we'll see what we can do.

"As it worked out, I don't think there are any complaints from anyone. There was a level playing field, the individual interviews with Dr. McPhee were extremely tough, point-blank, and extremely fair. The interview with the committee had tremendously diverse questions. To say the least, it was fun for me, it was exciting again for me because of the competitiveness. As it all turned out, if there is one statement I can make, I'd like to make this statement. Regardless of how it played out, regardless of anything, if we can all who love this university speak in one voice, and that's the only way we can do it, that's the only way I know how to do it. We all have to pull together. We all have to do what's right, and that is to take what I consider the best university in the state and make it as competitive in IA athletics across this country as we possibly can. And we have to do that very, very quickly.

"We have three basic, major issues that we have to address, and we all know what they are, and they are not in any particular order. We have to market our university, and we have to market our university every hour on the hour, every week, every month of every year. We have to go out and secure a tremendous amount of outside funds. We have to sell tickets, and we have to put people in the stands. We'll be able to do that and we'll do that very, very quickly.

"We have quality staff that we work with. We have unbelievable, exceptionally fine coaches. All of them are qualified to coach their teams and to win championships. My job will be to work directly with them and give them everything they possibly need to continue to move forward.

"I don't know all of the answers, but I do know a lot of people, and I do know a lot of educated people, and I do know a lot of quality people who will give us those answers. And we will take those and we will run with them.

"To finish, I want to make this pledge and I want to make this promise. I have a passion and I have ability for this university. With those two, we're going to be damn successful. I mean that from the bottom of our heart, to our faculty, to our students, to our community, to Dr. McPhee in particular for showing the confidence in me. We're going to hit the ground running and we're going to have a hell of a good time doing it."

"Coach Donnelly is a coaches athletic director, and if you can't work for him, you can't work for anyone."
Head Softball Coach Cindy Connelley:

"He brought me here to play football and I got to play in his last game as head coach and then I was a part of a championship team while he was interim athletic director. Other people might come in here and use this job as a stepping stone, but Coach Donnelly will always be here. I'm very happy to see him get this opportunity."
Wes Counts, former Blue Raider quarterback

"Coach Donnelly understands the situation here because he has been here in our shoes before. He especially understands that we are at a crossroads at this time in our history. He has the background for this position and he will help all of our sports get better because he has a relationship with all of our coaches."
Dean Hayes, Head Track and Field Coach

"I was really hoping that Coach Donnelly would get it. He bleeds blue and is really devoted to this university. He tells it like it is and there is no grey area with him, because he tells it like it is."
Head Volleyball Coach Lisa Kissee

"I am really pleased Coach Donnelly has been named the athletic director. Being an ex-coach I think he understands what a program goes through, and not just the monetary aspects. He was also very instrumental in helping us with the renovations of our tennis facility, so he has proven he is committed to improving and expanding the athletic department."
Head Women's Tennis Coach Randy Holden:

"This University could not have hired a better person to run this athletic department. Coach Donnelly has passion, experience, and the competitive drive to help make this athletic department reach the next level. If anyone deserved this position it was Boots Donnelly. He has been at Middle Tennessee nearly half his life and his dedicated all his time and effort to making this a better place."
Head Football Coach Andy McCollum

"I think this is a very wise move on the part of our President. I'm glad to see loyalty rewarded and no one has been more loyal to this University than Boots Donnelly. No one is more deserving of this position."
Johnny Moore, Head Men's Golf Coach

"I'm very excited for the future of our athletic department. I think that Coach Donnelly will do a great job."
Rachael Moore, Head Women's Golf Coach

"I believe that this was a very fair and open process. Dr. McPhee made the decision to seek the best possible candidates and he employed a very capable search firm to help us with the search. We had a tremendous group of candidates. Every one of the candidates had their strong points and I believe that any of them would have served us well.

"This process has validated Boots Donnelly for this position. There will be those that wonder why we didn't just hire Coach Donnelly to begin with, but I say that this process made sure that we had the best person to fill the job. This search clearly gives Coach Donnelly a standing within the university and the community that he might not have had otherwise.

"Boots will do a wonderful job and I am thrilled that he has been given this opportunity."
Charlie Myatt, Chair of the Search Advisory Committee

"The President conducted a very thorough national search knowing the importance of this position at this time. If you don't have someone inside, then you have to look outside. This search proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that we had the best person right here. This process has proved that Boots Donnelly is the right person to lead this department into the future."
Steve Peterson, Head Baseball Coach

"Now that Coach Donnelly has been named the full-time athletic director I think the sky's the limit as far as the aggressive and progressive leadership he can bring to this athletic department."
Head Women's Basketball Coach Stephany Smith:

"I believe that Middle Tennessee has made a great move in the hiring of Boots Donnelly. Boots brings a tremendous amount of experience to the table. We at the conference office look forward to working with Boots in the coming years."
Wright Waters, Sun Belt Conference Commissioner

"Coach Donnelly has been an institution at Middle Tennessee over the past 20-plus years. He wanted to stay on board here after he retired for coaching football and then stepped in to lead our department after Lee Fowler left. He has a good rapport with all of the coaches. I remember going in to see him after he was named interim and he told me that he would do everything he could to be successful and I think he has tried to do that. I'm glad he has gotten the opportunity to become our athletic director."
Randy Wiel, Head Men's Basketball Coach

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