DURHAM — Marty Scarano, the University of New Hampshire director of athletics, announced Monday night that head football coach Sean McDonnell, in his 21st season, will take an indefinite leave of absence from the program for health-related reasons.
Associate head coach Ricky Santos has been named interim head coach, effective immediately.
“Our entire department is aligned in doing everything to support Sean with the intent of getting him back to coaching his program,” Scarano said in a statement. “This will be the ultimate team effort; the administration, coaching staff, and most of all the student-athletes will give everything we have to support Jenny and Sean during this challenge.
“UNH football is in great hands with Ricky Santos as its interim head coach. Ricky will carry on the principles that Coach Mac has instilled in our nationally recognized program to ensure the team maintains its standard of achievement both on and off the field.”
The Wildcats are less than two weeks away from their season opener, Sept. 7 at Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass.
According to the UNH website, McDonnell, with 98 career Colonial Athletic Association victories, is the winningest active coach in the league and No. 3 all-time. He has guided the Wildcats to 14 consecutive winning seasons and a berth in the NCAA Division I FCS tournament each of those 14 years. That stretch ended last season.
McDonell brought Santos on board in March. Santos, whose uniform No. 2 is one of four jerseys ever retired by the UNH football program, was inducted into the UNH Athletics Hall of Fame on June 14, 2016.
He spent the past three seasons (2016-18) as the QB coach at Columbia University of the Ivy League.
In 2006, Santos won the Walter Payton Award as the most outstanding offensive player in FCS football. The then-junior, who finished a mere five points away from garnering the honor the previous season, threw for 3,125 yards and 29 touchdowns.