Dec. 10, 2008
WACO, Texas - Former Alabama defensive coordinator Ken Donahue will be the recipient of the American Football Coaches Association's Outstanding Achievement Award. The award will be presented, posthumously, to Donahue during the AFCA Kickoff Luncheon on January 12, 2009, at the AFCA Convention in Nashville, Tenn. The AFCA Board of Trustees created the award in order to recognize AFCA members, past and present, who have achieved outstanding success while coaching in football.
Alabama's Director of Athletics Mal Moore worked alongside Donahue as the Crimson Tide's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach and is happy that the AFCA has recognized one of his coaching peers.
"Coach Donahue was certainly one of the greatest coaches I was ever associated with," Moore said. "He was such a gentlemen. The coaches and players respected him. He was a hard worker and he instilled that work ethic in his many great defensive units. The University of Alabama is very proud of his many accomplishments and for what he meant to the Crimson Tide program. This is such a deserving honor and I would like to thank the AFCA for recognizing Coach Donahue and his excellent career."
Donahue, who passed away on March 21, 2001, is probably best known for his years as defensive coordinator under legendary coach Paul "Bear" Bryant at Alabama. A tireless worker, Donahue spent 21 years on the Alabama sideline and tutored an Alabama defense that led the nation in scoring defense three times in 1966 (3.7 points per game), 1975 (6.0) and 1979 (5.3).
"There's no one who coached the game of football who is more deserving than Ken Donahue to receive the 2008 Outstanding Achievement Award," former Tennessee head coach Johnny Majors said. "I have been associated with several outstanding coaches throughout my career, and I know of no one who was more dedicated to achieving excellence on a day-to-day basis than Coach Donahue. He was an extremely loyal individual to his school, his fellow coaches and to the players he coached. Ken demanded excellence and 100 percent effort from his players on every play, and those players respected him. Nobody could work players harder, or with more intensity, than Coach Donahue. He taught the players how to play the game like it should be played."
Overall, he spent 38 years as an assistant coach. Donahue began his coaching career at Memphis State in 1951, where he was the defensive line coach for four years. In 1956, Donahue returned to Tennessee as defensive coordinator, line coach and special assistant to head coach Bowden Wyatt until 1960. In 1960, his defensive unit led the SEC in pass defense, allowing only 53.8 yards per game.
From there, Donahue coached at Mississippi State for three years (1961-63), working alongside former teammate Johnny Majors. The 1963 Bulldog team, on which Donahue and Majors were assistants to Paul Davis, played in the Liberty Bowl as the first Bulldog team to participate in a bowl game in more than 20 years.
In 1964, Donahue joined Paul "Bear" Bryant's staff at Alabama. With Donahue serving as defensive coordinator at the Capstone, Alabama led the SEC in fewest yards allowed seven times, in rushing defense nine times and in pass defense three times. During his 21 years as defensive coordinator, Alabama won 11 SEC titles and three national championships.
His defensive units led the SEC in scoring defense 10 times (1964, 1965, 1966, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1975, 1978 and 1979), including six times in the 1970s. Alabama also led the SEC in rushing defense nine times (1967, 1968, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1978, 1979 and 1980), total defense seven times (1966, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1975, 1979 and 1980) and passing defense five times (1966, 1974, 1979, 1980 and 1984 ) under Donahue's leadership. In 1975, Donahue was named the SEC "Working Coach of the Year" after the Crimson Tide led the nation in scoring defense (6.0 points per game) and ranked first in the SEC in rushing defense (94.3 yards per game) and total defense (186 yards per game). He also earned that award in 1985 as an assistant at Tennessee.
Donahue was best known for the reputation he developed as an excellent defense coordinator. With the help of Pat Dye, Bill Oliver and Bear Bryant, Donahue created a multiple defensive strategy that allowed players to switch defenses quickly. NCAA and NFL teams still use the 4-3 and 5-2 strategies, which gained popularity because it allowed players to learn a minimum amount of technique while maximizing their strengths.
In 1985, Donahue returned to Tennessee and served as defensive coordinator, line coach and special assistant on Coach Johnny Majors' staff. His defensive unit was a major factor in UT's drive to the SEC title, a Sugar Bowl victory and eventual No. 4 national ranking. He was awarded a game ball after the Vols' 16-14 victory over Alabama that October. Donahue spent four years with the Vols before retiring from coaching after a brief stint as a consultant with the Philadelphia Eagles. His dedication to football and coaching earned the hard-working Donahue recognition in 1985 when The Football News singled him out as doing the best work by an assistant coach in all of college football.
A Corryton, Tenn., native, Donahue attended Central High School in Knoxville before he went on to play football for Tennessee. He played offensive tackle under head coach General Robert R. Neyland, and was a member of the 1950 team that was 11-1 and won the Cotton Bowl.