Donnan: Is loyalty enough?

Our Georgia beat writer, Tim Tucker, talked with former UGA coach Jim Donnan, who’s being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame this weekend primarily on the basis of his successful tenure as head coach at Marshall, where he won a 1-AA national championship. 

Donnan, who still lives in Athens in semi-retirement, remains a point of controversy among UGA fans, with some noting he took a floundering program and achieved 40 wins in five years, including four straight bowl wins, and recruited the foundation of the team that Mark Richt took to the 2002 SEC championship. Others point out he had a losing record against main rivals Florida, Tennesee and Georgia Tech and, as I noted here before, completely mishandled the quarterback situation with Quincy Carter. 

In discussing the Bulldog Nation critics who denigrated his work at Georgia after his Hall of Fame induction was announced in May, Donnan said to Tucker, “one thing I would ask is, how many of those [critics] would turn down $5 million three different times to be the coach at Georgia?” He was referring to offers he said he received to leave UGA to coach at North Carolina, Oklahoma and N.C. State. Donnan says he feels he was “loyal to the Georgia program. Regardless of what people say about what I did or didn’t do, I feel like I made a commitment here and did all I could.” 

So what does that mean in terms of Donnan’s UGA legacy? If loyalty is the criterion, then a lot of folks need to rethink their attitudes about Donnan’s spectacularly unsuccessful predecessor, former Georgia quarterback Ray Goff, because you couldn’t find a more loyal Bulldog than Goff. 

Are we supposed to feel all warm and fuzzy about Donnan because he turned down chances to go elsewhere in order to continue his mediocre work at UGA?

What do you think?

82 comments Add your comment

yellow fuzz

July 17th, 2009
10:46 am

I love being on the bottom of a tickle pile


July 17th, 2009
10:52 am


July 17th, 2009
10:59 am

I think Donnan is to be remembered for helping to recover from the last 3 years under Goff. Unfortunately, he placed his trust in 2 people that let him down, Carter and Sanks. The day he decided that Sanks was better than Jamal Lewis and let Lewis go to UT was the beginning of the end for Donnan.

He never had the “it” factor that it took to turn 8 wins per year into 10. He knew talent though. He brought Greene, Seymour and Stroud to UGA. Can’t debate about his success at Marshall. He deserves HOF.


July 17th, 2009
10:59 am

Donnan was a Great coach! He may not have accomplished everything the fans wanted him to, but he built a great foundation for coach Richt. I hope he will get another chance with a major school to show what a great coach he is. We got lucky getting Richt!


July 17th, 2009
11:07 am



You guys wanna put Donnan into your little HOF shrine. Ha!

That really diminishes the integrity of that shrine. But, what can one expect when there are a bunch of thugs running around campus making Ugag a joke.

Ha! Again


July 17th, 2009
11:12 am

Donnan is a DGD. A good coach and recruiter, just couldn’t put all the pieces into place fast enough.


July 17th, 2009
11:12 am

JayRoot, if anybody is a thug, you are it. If you dislike UGA so much, stay off their sites.


July 17th, 2009
11:14 am

Jayroot you idiot,

CAN YOU NOT READ??????????????



PBR=America in a can

July 17th, 2009
11:18 am

Jayroot its kind of like Tech putting that thug Joe Hamilton in theirs huh? Plus its not the UGA Hall of Fame it the College Football Hall of fame. You must be “Special”

Long Dawg

July 17th, 2009
11:18 am

Ray Goff and Jim Donnan were the worst thing to happen to Georgia football in the last 20 years. Goff never should have been given the job and Donnan was a second choice. His record means nothing because aside from one victory over Florida he never beat anyone of consequence and he had the beside manner of a rattlesnake. He was not big time college program material He did a great job at Marshall and he deserves to be recognized for that. He should have stayed in 1AA.

Bryan G.

July 17th, 2009
11:24 am

Okay, okay, okay…let’s get the record straight, folks.

Georgia was a waffling program that was winning 6 games a year when Donnan took over. We went to NO BOWL GAMES in 93 and 94 and went 6-6 in 1995 with a loss in the Peach Bowl. UGA was pitiful.

Donnan totally revived the program and went 10-2 in his second year. He brought in some good players like Reggie Brown, Seymour and Stroud, Jon Stinchcomb, Olandis Gary, and, yes, Quincy. Over his final 4 years, Donnan won an average of 9 games a season.

Donnan elevated the program from 3rd or 4th best in the SEC East to 2nd best. Richt took it from there to make it 1st or 2nd best depending on the year. He beat UF, UT, and even LSU in Baton Rouge.

Donnan’s greatest failing is that he let the 2000 team run wild with no discipline. (all 11 defensive starters from that team played in the NFL, btw). Donnan got the program out of the crapper. For that, he deserves some measure of respect.

Hunting Dawg

July 17th, 2009
11:35 am

I thought Jim Donnan did a fine job in bringing UGA football back from the dregs it was in prior to his hiring. He was loyal as well as Ray Goff. The football program was definitely entrenched in mediocrity and he made some moves that provided that provided for the redirection of the program. I especially loved the fact that he didn’t put up with Loran Smith’s typical inane questionsor observations. BTW, glad Loren is okay after his European car crash. Both Jim and Ray made mistakes and both had great positives that shoudl be acknowledged. The program went through a tough time in some sense, it still is.

Congratulations Coach Donnan on being selected for the College Football HOF. You deserve it for all components of your coaching career.

Wally Butts

July 17th, 2009
11:52 am

Jim Donnan and Ray goff are both part of our history and legacy…It saddens me that the fringe fanatics have forced them to be ostracized from the program. Ray Goff is one of the great players in UGA history leading us to the 76 SEC championship and being named SEC POY. He is a loyal son of UGA. He gave his all as a coach, both as an assistant and head coach.

Jim Donnan made mistakes but he always put UGA first. His biggest mistake was loyalty to his staff and to certain players. In hindsight it was misplaced loyalty. But both Donnan and Goff are southern gentlemen and loyalty, unfortunataley to a detriment sometimes, is a southern trait. Donnan worked off of a hand shake agreement for over a year.

These 2 men do not feel welcome at UGA to a point where they will not attend the games to be recognized with their players on the reunion games.

To this I say shame on us…


July 17th, 2009
11:56 am

great football mind,NO people skills

SC Dawg

July 17th, 2009
12:03 pm

Donnan left the Georgia program in far better shape than when he was first hired. It just got to a point where he couldn’t take it any farther. I was a big defender of him until the end of the 2000 season. After the Georgia Tech game, I knew his days were numbered.

And don’t forget that Donnan recruited many of the players that were on that 2002 SEC Championship team.


July 17th, 2009
12:04 pm

If you take a look a majority of players he had playing for him during his coaching time at UGA there are some of the greatest athletes to ever come through Athens & they had very successful pro carrers(Champ Bailey, Hines Ward, Richard Seymour, Charles Grant,Randy McMichael, Matt Stinchcomb, & many others). That being said how do you have that much talant & never do any more than he did?


July 17th, 2009
12:10 pm

I wonder if Richt and Donnan ever consult? I know it would of been kind of weird at first, since Richt was the replacement. But now I’d think thats mostly water under the bridge and the hiring/firing really didn’t have anything to do with each other. They both live in Athens. Two pretty good football minds in the same town. Just sayin..

Bo Williams

July 17th, 2009
12:14 pm

Didn’t Donnan use the UNC offer to leverage UGA out of more money? Then, when they pony-ed up, he showed his “loyalty”. UNC shunned Donnan for Dick Crum earlier.


July 17th, 2009
12:15 pm

He didn’t tolerate an inadequate DC, that’s for sure. Guy saw a problem and he at least attempted to fix it.

The Grinch

July 17th, 2009
12:20 pm

To JayRoot

Good point DawginLex. Ole Jay is a typical yellow jacket fan. Spouts off at the mouth about “thugs” at UGA without having a clue about the contents of this article. What happened, Jay, spend all your time on “calculus” and didn’t devote enough to reading comprehension? BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!


July 17th, 2009
12:22 pm

I actually just read the official article. It stated that Donnan keeps his distance from the program and Richt. Mostly because thats what he would want if he were the head coach. I can understand that.


July 17th, 2009
12:22 pm

I agree with Bryan G. Ray Goff left the program in a horrible mess. Donnan UGA Coach from 1996-2000 did indeed elevate Georgia from the mediocrity level at which goof had at left it…Brown, Gary, Seymour, Stroud,The Stinchcomb Brothers, as well as Champ Bailey, J. Phillps, Kendrell Bell,(Carter). Just to name a few good dogs who played for donnan.In my opinnion Donnan could not close the flood gates of recruiting from which goof had left open… (Signing Sanks instead of Lewis was a very costly move.)UT, UF and everybody else could come into the state and get any kid that they so desired i.e. lewis to UT…. Donnan could not build the depth to compete with UT,UF AUB. or Tech. He left an excellant foundation for CMR TO BUILD UPON, Most people are not aware of Mr Donnan coaching experience, he is not only going to the HOF because of his work at Marshall but also for his work at OKLAHOMA he was B.Switzer’s OFC you know all of those powerhouse sooner teams from 1985-1989 he was the OFC to those teams. So before you go judging because he wasnt UGA’S SAVIOR get your FACTS STRAIGHT Idiot. The man was hellva Coach period. just wasn’t the right coach for UGA.


July 17th, 2009
12:25 pm

I thought firing Donnan at the time was a mistake. I really did. Sure, 8-4 was a disappointment, but it was still 8-4. I would still be suspicious of firing any coach after an 8-4 season, but I must say I was wrong about firing Donnan. REALLY REALLY wrong. Could you imagine where we would be if he were still our coach? All the many great SEC coaches now in the league would be absolutely toying with this guy. We would be horrible. I mean like losing seasons bottom of the barrel kind of horrible. There is no doubt in my mind. Congrats to Donnan though. He was a good transition from Goff to Richt.


July 17th, 2009
12:29 pm

We will put Doonan in our Hall of Fame as well. Great work Donnan. We loved kicking your butt! You never know, the Florida Gators may put Mark Richt in their Hall of Fame also!

Fools Gold

July 17th, 2009
12:33 pm

Donnan was a damn good coach. All you folks that say he reached his plateau with UGA are the same one who criticize those who say CMR has reached his. All I know is Richt better put out a better product than last year after giving buddy Willie a raise. The 10 – 3 record is deceiving as hell from last year.


July 17th, 2009
12:33 pm

Knew the game, hated “the game”. Got to be good at both to survive at this level very long.


July 17th, 2009
12:40 pm

Donnan & Goff are both true & loyal DAWGS. They both want to win more than most of us all put together. Let sleeping dawgs lie. This is 2009. On to the SEC Championship and hopefully the National Championship. I agree with Wally Butts, it’s a ‘dawg gone’ shame that Goff & Donnan don’t feel welcome in Sanford Stadium. Those guys should have permanent booths there.

Dawg A

July 17th, 2009
12:41 pm

Donnan was a really good coach that lacked the ability to keep the right people happy! But he deserves this!
By the way…. with all of the weak coaches out there how come Donnan has not already got another head coaching job? Does anyone know?

Island Dawg

July 17th, 2009
12:48 pm

But for Quincy, Donnan would get the respect he deserves. He was a great bridge to the upper echelon under his successor, but just couldn’t beat the main rivals. Great coach and hate to see him out of the game, but would never trade him for Richt. The fact he still lives in Athens speaks volumes, DGD.


July 17th, 2009
12:50 pm

Donnan did a good job, and Richt is doing a Great job. Until we have a coach that wins National Championships on a regular basis, Dooley will be remembered as being the greatest. What we forget so often is that Dooley won 1 National Championship with the greatest college football player of all time. We Should have won at least another under Dooley but how quickly we forget.

Our True Glory years, are really one Glory Year. So lets all give credit where credit is do and until someone (or our current coach) starts putting Crystal in Butts Mehre, Donnan was a good coach and Richt is a great coach.

kauai dawg

July 17th, 2009
12:51 pm

I think Donnan is a great coach and really helped rekindle the program. I didn’t want to see him go at the time but will admit that Richt is an even better coach and I am glad we have Richt now.

Donnan’s biggest problem was limited people skills or patience with Loran Smith. He could coach however and I do see he was loyal and committed. He could recruit and he could coach but didn’t have the charisma for the media and big shots. Go DAWGS!


July 17th, 2009
12:58 pm

Donnan was a great coach at marshall, great recruiter at UGA. He should be in the HOF for his body of work at Marshall, not UGA of course. He did serve UGA well in recruiting, and guiding UGA, when I say guiding I mean getting us through the mess left after Goff left. He deserves praise for the loyalty and sticking with the program. And with that I say Thanks Donnan, That is all!


July 17th, 2009
1:00 pm

Thanks for the loyalty. We would love to see some more of that on espn broadcasts. Please stop the cult of florida worship at espn, then you will show us true loyalty.


July 17th, 2009
1:11 pm

The current coaching staff is no doubt a step up but give credit where credit is due.
Donnan came in at a tough time and delivered 40 wins in 5 years and left excellent tallent that
resulted in 13 wins in coach Richt’s second season. An accomplishment that has not been since dublicated. Honestly not much different about the talent level at the end of his tenure and currently. GO DAWGS

Out of Town

July 17th, 2009
1:12 pm

“How ya like that big boy?”


July 17th, 2009
1:13 pm

Coach Donnan is a gentleman, I do respect him a lot. Ray Goff was a disaster, literally he destroyed Georgia football program in 3 years, Goff is a traitor!


July 17th, 2009
1:15 pm

People…..all you need to know is this.

Jim Donnan makes the hall of fame.
Erk Russell doesn’t.

something is wrong with that picture.

Jim Donnan turned our program into the Oklahoma of the SEC. (Lots of talent – little discipline) He wanted everyone to give him the same god-like respect that he got at Marshall. And, when he didn’t get it, he went off on them.

I remember him telling some guy on the call in show that he shouldn’t have been in the bathroom so much and should watch the game before critisizing his play calling. That kind of stuff is uncalled for. Plus the scene with Loran….

This comment about how he turned down $5M a year to stay at UGA is typical Donnan. ‘I am great, you people are stupid.” He was constantly throwing about names and offers when he was here as a means to get respect.

Never forget what CMR said at his press conference…”my head is not on a swivel.”

Yes he won lots of games and was a brilliant offensive mind. In fact, someone once said that while he was here, he had the third highest winning percentage in the NCAA behind Fulmer and Spurrier.

But had NO people skills and NO ability to discipline his players. He also went through defensive coordinators like a box of kleenex, and in the end, bet the farm on a kid who had some serious problems (including a mysterious thumb injury-right.) The whole QC situation was a beautiful illustration in his philosophy of coaching….get enough talent, let them run wild and you can win. Sorry, but you have to coach them, too.

CMR comes to town, injects some discipline and we finish up #2 in the country. With Jim Donnan’s players.

Using the logic of some people, Ron Zook should get some kind of hall of fame mention for the work he did at Florida. he just needs to get on tv a bit more and curry some favors with the sportswriters.


July 17th, 2009
1:17 pm

…I tip my hat to Donnan for raising the level of talent in the program.Pulling Garner away from Tenn was a great move also…it brought Metro Atlanta’s best back into the fold and set in motion Tenn’s decline.He could have got away with the attitude if he’d won more rivalry games…the killer for him was losing these games and making off hand comments to the effect that he didn’t know Tech and Aub were such big rivals.He stopped our free fall though and set a nice table for Richt to build on.He made an impact on our program.


July 17th, 2009
1:25 pm

Spurlock, you are right about that. Especially Coach Goff, who is Georgia family. I’ve heard it said he “harmed” or put the program “behind”, which is absolute BS. He didn’t win enough games. Period, that is all. It’s not like he left troubles or probations or did any irrepairable harm. He obviously had and left some pretty good talent.


July 17th, 2009
1:28 pm

Attaboy Spurlock, Thank god there are a few true DAWGS out there who are not haters. It’s easy to criticize, just look at the blogs cursing Richt for everything from not winning the N.C. to being loyal to his assistants to believing in God. I still remember those that were constantly dogging Dooley. Both Goff and Donnan gave it their all for UGA! Most of these negative clowns could not coach a midget football team! GO DAWGS!


July 17th, 2009
1:44 pm

BryanG. Which year was UGA elevated to 2nd in the SEC east? Lets see if I can help you. In his tenure he beat FL once. He beat Tenn once. I think the pecking order was Fl Tenn. or Tenn Fl depending on the year (but mostly Fl was # 1) UGA was always 3rd in the order while Donnan was there. Let me repeat that UGA was ALWAYS 3rd while Donnan was there.He was a pretty good coach and probably would have an SEC championship by now had he stayed.Some reason he rubbed ole Loran the wrong way though and Loran led the charge for change.


July 17th, 2009
1:46 pm

Well said Wally Butts! Couldn’t agree more!

Michael Scharff

July 17th, 2009
1:49 pm

Donnan never realized how deeply we love our Dawgs. Say what you will about Loran, but save for Dan McGill, there is no more dedicated and loyal Bulldawg on the planet than he. Donnan had no respect for Loran or what he meant to the UGA program. Any time he came to a local Bulldog club meeting, Donnan looked like it was last place on earth where he wished to be. Goff was no pro at courting the fans, and he had a lousy record. CMR goes out of his way to sign every autograph, every year, and he actually makes you feel like he cares about you as a person when you speak with him. He is even more personable than CVD, and that’s saying a LOT!


July 17th, 2009
1:52 pm


I stated before – Coach Donnan was a BIG TIME coach – at a BIG TIME school that needed some BIG TIME MENDING – that just barely missed out making it BIG TIME!!!

For those with short memories:
– UT and Florida were both NATIONAL POWERS – TOP 5 if not Top 10.
– UGA had the third best team in the SEC during two of Donnans years – unfortuately – he also had the 3rd best team in the SEC East at that time.
– Got the recruiting momentum going and upgraded the talent.
– UGA was inconsistent as Donnon was trying to build the team into a power – would play lights out one week – then get beat by a 5-6 Auburn team.
– Who is not to say that Donnan had turned the corner and would have won the SEC in 2002?

The inconsistency is what brought Donnan down – and staying with QC. In my opinion – The loss against South Carolina (0-11 previous year) – is the straw that broke the camels back for the fans and President Adams?

He did a great job of bringing respect back to the UGA program. Left the program in much better shape than how it was when he came in. The building blocks were set – and set the table for an excellent young coach named Mark Richt.

Congratulations to Coach Donnan for his induction into the Hall of Fame.



July 17th, 2009
1:53 pm

Ditto MaconKnight!


July 17th, 2009
1:55 pm

We can put Reggie Ball in the UGA Hall of Fame :)


July 17th, 2009
1:59 pm

You’ve got a long, wide streak of butthole in you Junkyard Blawger. The man was not the worst coach in history, did do better than his predecessor, and yeah, I think his loyalty to stay and try to finish the job is a bit admirable. But not as admirable as you continuing to take a whizz on a guy who was fired eight years ago. That streak is awfully long and wide, Bill. And St. Peter takes notes.


July 17th, 2009
2:01 pm

His Bulldog Club meetings were the things of legend. In 1998, I saw him basically thank Champ and Boss Bailey’s mom for her sons, praise Quincy Carter’s arrival as the next step for the program, and tell a joke about a 6-year-old dog having never seen a Tech victory over Georigia. We went 8-4 and lost to Tech in 1998.
At the 2000 meeting in Atlanta, he all but promised a National Championship. On the field, Quincy got worse, and the defense was horrible. Result 8-4. For the record, all 11 defensive starters from the 2000 squad eventually made NFL rosters.

Donnan – all talk. No results.


July 17th, 2009
2:02 pm

Donnan didn’t fix the DC position. Donnan’s DC for 3 of his 4 years was Joe Kines who was hired in ‘95 also Goff’s last

As for talents Hines Ward was a Goff recruit as was Bobo.

Talent was never an issue for Goff or Bobo, doing something with it was. Goff was a good recruiter and assistant but was not trained for the job. He hired a decent DC to late to save his job. IMO he is a good dawg who took his dream job before he was ready. I can’t fault him for trying and doing as best he could.

Donan IMO did not elevate the program but held it at what Goff had leanrned and set in place with a better DC. He did recruit some more good talent but only had one truly memorable win being the WLOCP.

The reason I always heard for Donnan being fired from UGA employees was team discipline had gone away. The player acted like they owned the campus and Donnan did nothing about it. Combine that with his record against UF and Tenn and yes you’re out the door. I do think he did as best he could but the Hall of Fame career is for Marshal not UGA.

A poster above brings up Sanks, also do not forget Nate Hybl who was redshirted by Donnan and went on to win the Rose with Oklahoma

Mark Richt

July 17th, 2009
2:05 pm

would someone rub some more suntan lotion on my forehead?