For the English footballer, see Michael Donohue.
For the American politician, see Michael Donohoe.
Mike Donahue
File:Michael Joseph Donahue 1914 Glomerata Auburn University.jpg
Donahue at Auburn in 1909
Sport(s)Football, basketball, baseball, tennis, track, soccer, golf
Biographical details
Born(1876-06-14)June 14, 1876
County Kerry, Ireland
DiedDecember 11, 1960(1960-12-11) (aged 84)
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Playing career
Head coaching record
Overall129–54–8 (football, excluding Spring Hill)
72–81 (basketball)
15–15–3 (baseball)
0–7 (tennis)
Accomplishments and honors
6 SIAA (1904, 1908, 1910, 1913, 1914, 1919)
College Football Hall of Fame
Inducted in 1951 (profile)

Michael Joseph "Iron Mike" Donahue (June 14, 1876 – December 11, 1960) was an American football player, coach of football, basketball, baseball, tennis, track, soccer, and golf, and a college athletics administrator. He served as the head football coach at Auburn University (1904–1906, 1908–1922), at Louisiana State University (1923–1927), and at Spring Hill College (1934).

In 18 seasons coaching football at Auburn, Donahue amassed a record of 106–35–5 and had three squads go undefeated with four more suffering only one loss. His .743 career winning percentage is the second highest in Auburn history, surpassing notable coaches such as John Heisman and Ralph "Shug" Jordan. Donahue Drive in Auburn, Alabama, on which Jordan–Hare Stadium is located and the Tiger Walk takes place, is named in his honor, as is Mike Donahue Drive on the LSU campus.

Donahue also coached basketball (1905–1921), baseball, track, and soccer (1912–?)[1] at Auburn and baseball (1925–1926) and tennis (1946–1947) at LSU. He was inducted as a coach into the College Football Hall of Fame as part of its inaugural class in 1951.

Early lifeEdit

Donahue was born in County Kerry, Ireland and attended Yale University.[2] There he lettered in football, basketball, track and cross country.[3] Donahue played as a substitute quarterback on the football team, and was twice captain of the scrub team.[4] He graduated in 1903.[2] Donahue stood just 5'4" tall,[5] with red hair and blue eyes.[6]

Coaching careerEdit



Upon graduating college, Donahue became the tenth head coach of the Auburn Tigers football team beginning in 1904, the same year Vanderbilt hired Dan McGugin. Former Auburn head coach Billy Watkins led the effort to acquire Donahue.[4][7] Contrasting with McGugin, Fuzzy Woodruff wrote that Donahue was "a mouse-like little man with little to say, save when aroused, on which he was capable of utterances of great fire and fervor."[8] His teams were led by his 7–2–2 defense.[9][10]

His coaching career saw immediate success, as his first team went undefeated at 5–0 including a defeat of rival Alabama which was the purpose for his hiring.[11] Donahue's Auburn teams won six Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association titles, in 1904, 1908, 1910, 1913, 1914 and 1919.

Donahue's 1913 and 1914 teams went undefeated,[12] with the 1914 squad allowing zero points to be scored all year, and have been recognized as national champions by various, retroactive selectors including Billingsley Report and the Howell Ratings. From 1913 into 1915, Auburn went 22 consecutive games without a loss. One source on the 1913 team reads "Coach Donahue loved the fullback dive and would run the play over and over again before sending the elusive Newell wide on a sweep."[13]

Donahue's 1920 team averaged a then-school record 36.9 points per game. His last team was considered one of the best teams Auburn turned out in the first half of the 20th century.[14][n 1]

His .743 career winning percentage is the second highest in Auburn history, surpassing notable coaches including John Heisman, Ralph "Shug" Jordan, Pat Dye, Terry Bowden, and Tommy Tuberville.[16]

Athletic director and other sportsEdit

Donahue also served as athletic director, basketball coach, baseball coach, track coach, and soccer coach while at Auburn.[17]


In 1905, Donahue initiated the school's first official varsity basketball team, which went 3–1–1, including victories over Georgia Tech and Tulane, a two-point loss to the Columbus (Georgia) All-Stars, and a tie with the Birmingham Athletic Club. Under Donahue, basketball practice was a contact sport; a former player once lamented, "He never bothered calling fouls--said it slowed up the game."[18]


In 1912, he coached Auburn's first soccer team.[1] By the beginning of the 1915 season, Auburn was only playing athletic clubs and prep schools and had yet to participate in an intercollegiate match, due to a lack of soccer programs at other Southern colleges.[19]


Donahue went on to become the seventeenth head football coach at LSU in 1923 and had a 23–19–3 record over five seasons before retiring from coaching after the 1927 season.[20] The 1924 team beat Indiana. The 1927 team tied Wallace Wade's Alabama Crimson Tide.[21]

He also served briefly as the head coach of the LSU Tigers baseball team (1925–1926),[22] compiling a record of 15–15–3, and as the head men’s tennis coach at LSU (1946–1947), tallying a mark of 0–7.[23] In 1944 and 1945, Donahue served as the head coach of the LSU Tigers golf team.

Spring HillEdit

Donahue served as the athletic director at Spring Hill College from 1929 to 1936.[3] In 1931, Donahue assisted Pat Browne with the football team at Spring Hill.[24] In 1934, Donahue reentered the active coaching ranks, when he was hired as head coach and mentored his son, Mike, Jr.[25]

Death and legacyEdit

Donahue died on December 11, 1960 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Coaching treeEdit

Donahue's coaching tree includes:

  1. Eugene Caton: played for Auburn (1909–1911), head coach for Howard (1915).
  2. Moon Ducote: played for Auburn (1915–1917), head coach for Spring Hill (1919; 1921–1922), Loyola (1924–1925).
  3. Pat Dwyer, assistant for Auburn (1908), head coach for LSU (1911–1913), Toledo (1923–1925).
  4. Lew Hardage: played for Auburn (1908–1909), assistant for Vanderbilt (1922–1931), head coach at Mercer (1913), Oklahoma (1932–1934).
  5. Rip Major: played for Auburn (1910–1912), assistant for Clemson (1913), head coach for Wofford (1919; 1922–1926).
  6. George Penton: played for Auburn (1908–1909), assistant for Auburn (1913), head coach for Troy (1911–1912).
  7. Boozer Pitts: played for Auburn (1913–1914), assistant for Auburn (1919–1922; 1925–1927), head coach for Auburn (1923–1924).
  8. Henry W. Robinson played for Auburn (1911–1914), assistant for Georgia Tech (1928).
  9. George B. Sparkman, Jr.: played for Auburn (1908), assistant for Florida (1919).

Head coaching recordEdit


Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
Auburn Tigers (Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association) (1904–1906)
1904 Auburn 5–0 4–0 T–1st
1905 Auburn 2–4 2–4 9th
1906 Auburn 1–5–1 0–5 16th
Auburn Tigers (Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association) (1908–1921)
1908 Auburn 6–1 5–1 T–1st
1909 Auburn 5–2 3–2 6th
1910 Auburn 6–1 6–0 T–1st
1911 Auburn 4–2–1 3–0–1 2nd
1912 Auburn 6–1–1 4–1–1 3rd
1913 Auburn 8–0 7–0 1st
1914 Auburn 8–0–1 5–0–1 T–1st
1915 Auburn 6–2 4–2 7th
1916 Auburn 6–2 5–2 6th
1917 Auburn 6–2–1 5–1 T–2nd
1918 Auburn 2–5 0–2 11th
1919 Auburn 8–1 5–1 T–1st
1920 Auburn 7–2 3–2 8th
1921 Auburn 5–3 3–2 9th
Auburn Tigers (Southern Conference) (1922)
1922 Auburn 8–2 2–1 T–6th
Auburn: 99–35–5 65–26–3
LSU Tigers (Southern Conference) (1923–1927)
1923 LSU 3–5–1 0–3 19th
1924 LSU 5–4 0–3 T–19th
1925 LSU 5–3–1 0–2–1 T–17th
1926 LSU 6–3 3–3 T–10th
1927 LSU 4–4–1 2–3–1 11th
LSU: 23–19–3 5–14–2
Total: 129–54–8
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title
Indicates BCS bowl, Bowl Alliance or Bowl Coalition game.


Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
Auburn Tigers (Independent) (1905–1921)
1905–06 Auburn 5–1–1
1906–07 Auburn 4–2
1907–08 Auburn 6–5
1908–09 Auburn 4–3
1909–10 Auburn 11–6
1910–11 Auburn 3–5
1911–12 Auburn 2–6
1912–13 Auburn 6–9
1913–14 Auburn 3–10
1914–15 Auburn 3–5
1915–16 Auburn 3–5
1916–17 Auburn 2–2
1917–18 Auburn 2–3
1918–19 Auburn 4–3
1919–20 Auburn 11–7
1920–21 Auburn 5–8
Auburn: 72–81 (.471)
Total: 72–81 (.471)

      National champion         Conference regular season champion         Conference tournament champion
      Conference regular season and conference tournament champion       Conference division champion


Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
LSU Tigers (Southern Conference) (1925–1926)
1925 LSU 5–9–2
1926 LSU 10–6–1
LSU: 15–15–3 (.500)
Total: 15–15–3 (.500)

      National champion         Conference regular season champion         Conference tournament champion
      Conference regular season and conference tournament champion       Conference division champion

See also Edit


  1. 1.0 1.1 Michael Donahue (1912). C. E. Sauls. ed. Glomerata (Annual). 15. Auburn, AL: Alabama Polytechnic Institute. p. 230. Retrieved 21 March 2011.
  2. 2.0 2.1 The Irish and the Making of American Sport, 1835-1920. p. 351.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Mike Donahue at the College Football Hall of Fame
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Auburn Faces Coming Season". The Atlanta Constitution: p. 7. September 5, 1904. Retrieved February 7, 2017. open access
  5. Barnhart, Tony (1 August 2008). "Southern Fried Football (Revised): The History, Passion, and Glory of the Great Southern Game". Triumph Books.
  6. Woodbery, Evan (1 September 2012). "100 Things Auburn Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die". Triumph Books.
  7. Umphlett, Wiley Lee (1 January 1992). "Creating the Big Game: John W. Heisman and the Invention of American Football". Greenwood Publishing Group.
  8. Woodruff 1928, p. 160
  9. Woodruff 1928, p. 161
  10. Perrin, Tom (1 January 1987). "Football: a college history". McFarland & Company Incorporated Pub.
  11. Woodruff 1928, p. 167
  13. "100 Year Anniversary: The Top 10 Players on Auburn’s 1913 National Championship Team". June 28, 2013.
  14. see "Auburn's Gator Bowl Champs Rated Among Top Tiger Teams". Ocala Star-Banner. January 16, 1955.,6354628.
  15. Gasper Green (January 10, 1933). "Gridiron Gasps". The Tuscaloosa News.,378292. Retrieved February 7, 2017.
  16. "Auburn Coaching Records". College Football Data Warehouse. Archived from the original on May 25, 2011. Retrieved April 7, 2010.
  17. "Tradition, History, and Legend". Auburn Official Athletic Site. CBS Interactive. Retrieved April 7, 2010.
  18. "Mickey Logue and Jack Simms, Auburn: The Lovliest Village Photograph Collection, RG 798". Auburn University Libraries. Retrieved April 7, 2010.
  19. J. B. Overstreet, ed. (1915). Glomerata (Annual). 18. Auburn, AL: Alabama Polytechnic Institute. p. 192. Retrieved 22 March 2011.
  20. "LSU Year-by-Year Records". p. 107. Retrieved 2018-07-29.
  21. Bob Matherne (October 18, 1927). "Campus On Sports Comment". The Pittsburgh Press.,6602123.
  22. "Louisiana State University". Retrieved 2018-07-29.
  23. "LSU Men's Tennis History, Coaching Records". Retrieved 2018-07-24.
  24. "Spring Hill Now Finding Line-Up For Auburn Tilt". The Dothan Eagle: p. 3. October 28, 1931. Retrieved January 14, 2017. open access
  25. Mike Donahue Coaches Again, St. Petersburg Times, Nov 14, 1934.



  • Woodruff, Fuzzy (1928). A History of Southern Football 1890–1928. 1.

External linksEdit

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