There are plans in place to erect a statue honoring MTSU football coaching legend James “Boots” Donnelly. The longtime football head coach took the Blue Raiders from a fledgling program to a Football Subdivision Championship contender.
The 6-foot-6 bronze statue would be placed in front of the Kennon Sports Hall of Fame building on Middle Tennessee State University’s campus. There are also plans for a granite wall to be placed behind the statue with the names of every player, assistant coach, trainer, manager and secretary who worked for the program during Donnelly’s 20 year tenure as coach from 1979 to 1998. This will add to other on-campus memorials for past Blue Raider sports legends, such as the Murphy Center, which is dedicated to former player, coach and athletic director Bubber Murphy, and a statue honoring longtime baseball coach John Stanford.
There is no official date yet on when the statue will be unveiled. The goal is to have it finished in time for the 2015 football season.
Donnelly’s coaching career at MTSU was very successful. After going 3-17 in his first two years at the helm, his teams would post a winning record in 15 of his next 18 seasons. Overall, his record at the school was 140-87-1. This also included five league championships, and he led the school to the national playoffs seven times.
On top of being the longtime head coach of the Blue Raiders, Donnelly was also the school’s athletic director through 2005. In 2013, he was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame.
The plan is being financed by longtime MTSU assistant Ed Bunio. He has commissioned St. Louis, Missouri sculptor Harry Weber. His impressive work includes the likenesses of Dizzy Dean, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, Payne Stewart, Stan Musial, Jack Buck, Doug Flutie and Bill Bradley.
Bunio was MTSU’s defensive coordinator from 1979 to 1994. He has now raised more than half of the $165,000 need for the project. The project started when he met with four former players – Vic Esposito (1987), Dejuan Buford (1985-88), Greg Pollard (1989-90) and Dino Deluliis (1982-85) – and former assistant David Culley (1982), who is now assistant head coach and receivers coach for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Bunio has been attempting to raise money from individuals instead of corporations. Tax-deductible contributions can be made through the MTSU Foundation. Contact Jim Simpson, director of the MTSU Varsity Club, at 615-898-5632 or MTSU Box 557, Murfreesboro, TN, 37132.
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