HARRISONBURG - Sean McDonnell said it didn’t take him long to realize James Madison had hired the right coach for its program.
McDonnell, who enters his 19th season as the coach at New Hampshire this fall, has led the Wildcats to 13 consecutive FCS playoff appearances – the longest active streak nationally.
He said he wasn’t surprised when first-year Dukes coach Mike Houston led JMU to the national title in 2016.
“Not after I met him,” McDonnell said of Houston.
“I first met him down at the CAA conference [meetings] last year, and I got to play 18 holes of golf with him. I talked with him and sat there, and he thoroughly impressed me.”
McDonnell’s Wildcats squared off with Houston’s Dukes twice last year. JMU won both games.
“Then you do a little more research on his coaching career, all the way up through The Citadel and you get that he’s a really good football coach,” McDonnell said. “Then he had a good staff. He brought in the right mix and then the kids bought in. When that happens and you got players, you’re going to be a good program and pretty good team.”
McDonnell coached against ex-JMU coaches Mickey Matthews and Everett Withers too, but said Houston’s 2016 squad wasn’t like other JMU teams of the past.
“I think Mike has brought something to that program that is just a little different – the toughness on defense, the great special teams play,” he said.
New Hampshire visits JMU on Oct. 28 this season.