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MT Athletics unveils, dedicates ‘Boots’ Donnelly statue

Middle Tennessee athletics honored one of the most recognized names in Blue Raider history with a full-size statue that now stands on the front lawn of the Kennon Sports Hall of Fame building.

The dedication for James “Boots” Donnelly statue was held Saturday, Oct. 3, before MTSU’s Homecoming game against Vanderbilt University. Because of rainy weather, the event was moved inside the hall of fame building, where Donnelly addressed the capacity crowd on hand.

This bronze statue of former MTSU football coach Boots Donnelly was unveiled Saturday, Oct. 3, outside the Kennon Sports Hall of Fame at MTSU before the Blue Raiders' game against Vanderbilt. Behind the statue is a wall that includes the names of players, assistant coaches, trainers and managers who worked in the program during Donnelly's 20 years as coach. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

This bronze statue of former MTSU football coach Boots Donnelly was unveiled Saturday, Oct. 3, outside the Kennon Sports Hall of Fame at MTSU before the Blue Raiders’ game against Vanderbilt. Behind the statue is a wall that includes the names of players, assistant coaches, trainers and managers who worked in the program during Donnelly’s 20 years as coach. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

“Coach Donnelly’s one of the pillars of our athletic department,” Director of Athletics Chris Massaro said.

“Putting a statue of him at the Hall of Fame building is perfect, because that facility was his idea, and he was able to involve Emmett and Rose Kennon for the funding. Emmett would be pleased if he was still alive. It’s a perfect location.”

Former MTSU football coach Boots Donnelly addresses the crowd Saturday, Oct. 3, inside the Kennon Sports Hall of Fame at MTSU during a dedication ceremony for the statue of him that was unveiled the same day outside the hall. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

Former MTSU football coach Boots Donnelly addresses the crowd Saturday, Oct. 3, inside the Kennon Sports Hall of Fame at MTSU during a dedication ceremony for the statue of him that was unveiled the same day outside the hall. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

Ed Bunio, a longtime MTSU assistant under Donnelly, spearheaded an effort to raise funds for a 6-foot-6 bronze statue.

A granite wall behind the statue includes the names of every player, assistant coach, trainer, manager and secretary who worked in the program during Donnelly’s tenure as coach (1979-98).

Donnelly was a player on the football team in the early ’60s, then became head football coach in 1979 and held that position for 20 years before resigning in 1998.

Donnelly then spent the next two years as director of community relations in the athletic department before being selected by former president James Walker to take over as interim athletic director. Donnelly was later named the full-time athletic director in 2002.

He is credited with helping usher MTSU football into FBS competition (formerly Division 1-A). Find more MT Athletics news at www.goblueraiders.com.

MT Athletic Communications

Former MTSU football coach Boots Donnelly addresses the crowd Saturday, Oct. 3, inside the Kennon Sports Hall of Fame at MTSU during a dedication ceremony for the statue of him that was unveiled the same day outside the hall. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

Former MTSU football coach Boots Donnelly addresses the crowd Saturday, Oct. 3, inside the Kennon Sports Hall of Fame at MTSU during a dedication ceremony for the statue of him that was unveiled the same day outside the hall. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

Legendary MT head football coach James "Boots" Donnelly is shown in this undated file photo. A statue of Donnelly will be unveiled Oct. 3 in front of the Kennon Sports Hall of Fame. (MT Athetics photo)

Legendary MT head football coach James “Boots” Donnelly is shown in this undated file photo from the 1970s. A statue of Donnelly will be unveiled Oct. 3 in front of the Kennon Sports Hall of Fame. (MT Athetics photo)

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