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John McDonnell

Andrew Maloney and John McDonnell

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The Most Successful Coach in NCAA History
458 pages
45 photographs
7" x 10"

About this book

When John McDonnell began his coaching career in 1972 at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville—choosing it over Norman, Oklahoma, because Fayetteville reminded him of his native Ireland—he could hardly have imagined that he would become the most successful coach in the history of American collegiate athletics. But, in thirty-six years at the university, he amassed a staggering resume of accomplishments, including forty national championships (eleven cross country, nineteen indoor track, and ten outdoor track), the most by any coach in any sport in NCAA history. His teams at Arkansas won the triple crown (a championship in cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track in a single school year) five times.


The Razorbacks also won eighty-three conference championships (thirty-eight in the Southwest Conference and forty-six in the Southeastern Conference), including thirty-four consecutive conference championships in cross country from 1974 to 2008. McDonnell coached 185 All-Americans, fifty-four individual national champions, and twenty-three Olympians. And from 1984 to 1995, his Razorback teams won twelve consecutive NCAA Indoor Track Championships, the longest streak of national titles by any school in any sport in NCAA history.


This new biography tells the story of the great coach’s life and legacy, from his childhood growing up on a farm in 1940s County Mayo, Ireland, to his own running career, to the beginnings of his life as a coach, to all the great athletes he mentored along the way.

About the authors

Andrew Maloney coaches track and field and cross country at the University of Guelph following six seasons at the University of Tulsa. He is the editor of and has contributed extensively to Canadian Running and Athletics Illustrated. He currently works as a hockey agent with Maloney & Thompson Sports Management in Guelph, Ontario.


John McDonnell was the head coach of the Arkansas Razorback track-and-field teams from 1978 until his retirement in 2008, during which time he won an unprecedented forty national championships. He currently spends his time in Fayetteville and on his ranch in Oklahoma.


“The book is a big one. It has more than 400 pages of copy and photos, another 21 pages of records and seven pages of footnotes. In other words, it’s a track junkie’s delight. It should also find its place on the bookshelves of thousands of Razorback fans statewide even if track isn’t their favorite sport.”

—Rex Nelson, Sporting Life Arkansas


“A fascinating inside look at the life and career of John McDonnell, the greatest NCAA coach ever in any sport.”

—Alberto Salazar, three-time winner of the New York Marathon and author of 14 Minutes: A Running Legend’s Life and Death and Life


“John McDonnell is not only one of the greatest track and cross-country coaches ever but a national treasure whose influence on the sport and on the young men he’s nurtured will last for generations. McDonnell’s life story illuminates the subtle ways in which he acquired and expanded on the knowledge that led to a record number of NCAA titles while gaining insights into both the psychology and physiology that produced peak performances. A fascinating book.”

—Marc Bloom, track and field journalist and author of God on the Starting Line 

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