DURHAM, N.H.-The University of New Hampshire football team had many players garner awards and honors during the season, but this time it was the coaching staff's turn as second-year head coach Sean McDonnell and 2nd-year associate head coach Mark Matlak will both receive honors from the Gridiron Club of Greater Boston.
McDonnell was named the Division I-A/I-AA Coach of the Year and Matlak was chosen as the overall Assistant Coach of the Year. Both will receive their awards on Wed., Dec. 6, at the Gridiron Club's "Bob" Whelan College Football Awards Night, which will be held at Lantana's Restaurant in Randolph, Mass.
McDonnell, who recently completed his second season as the head coach of the Wildcats, led his squad to a 6-5 record and saw his team ranked as high as 23rd in the nation according to the Sports Network I-AA football poll. Highlights from the campaign included a thrilling come-from-behind overtime victory at No. 2 Delaware and an impressive home win over No. 17 Massachusetts. UNH also defeated Hampton when the Pirates were ranked 25th in the I-AA poll. McDonnell, who owns an 11-11 overall record through his first two seasons guiding the Wildcats, is a 1978 graduate of the University of New Hampshire. In his rookie debut, McDonnell led the Wildcats to a 5-6 overall record and impressive victories over the likes of Northeastern (33-31), Connecticut (43-18) and Maine (31-20). Under McDonnell and his staff, the Wildcats featured a crafty and wide open offensive attack which led the Atlantic 10 with an average of 457.3 yards per game.
McDonnell, who served as offensive coordinator for the Wildcats for five seasons prior to being hired for the head job, was named the 19th head coach of the UNH football program on April 22, 1999. McDonnell replaced the 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 in 1998 as the team's Offensive Coordinator. McDonnell rejoined the Wildcats as an assistant coach before the 1991 spring camp, and in his first two seasons, McDonnell worked with the quarterbacks and receivers. 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 in 1978, 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, live in Durham with their two boys, Timmy and Tommy.
Mark Matlak, who was named Associate Head Coach in 1999, is the team's defensive coordinator and plays an integral role in recruiting and leading the defense. Two of his players, linebacker Brett Bashaw and safety Erik Mitchell, were selected to the All-Atlantic 10 squad for their outstanding efforts. A native of Pittsburgh, Pa., and a graduate of Chartiers Valley High School, Matlak played both football and baseball in high school. He was also a dual-athlete in those sports at Allegheny. Matlak was an outstanding running back at Allegheny and was voted the Offensive Player of the Year in the President's Athletic Conference in his senior year. He was inducted into the Allegheny College Hall of Fame in 1989. Matlak coached at his alma mater for four years (1980-83) before coming to Durham to work under head coach Bill Bowes.
Named to the Defensive Coordinator post prior to the 1989 season, he previously coached the Wildcat defensive ends, including NFL player Ilia Jarostchuk, formerly of the New England Patriots. Mark and his wife, Karen, and son, Zachary, live in Dover.