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Buffalo Bulls Coaching Search; FCS Playoffs: Sean McDonnell, New Hampshire

Our Coaching Search series continues with another FCS coach whose prolonged success should open eyes in New Hampshire boss Sean McDonnell.

Many, many people know that Chip Kelly coached at New Hampshire before heading to the other coast to work under Mike Bellotti. What most don't realize is that Kelly was never the head man at UNH, and that the Wildcats have maintained their success in the eight years since he left.

Among FBS coaches, only Frank Beamer (Virginia Tech) and Larry Blakeney (Troy) have been at their schools longer than McDonnell at UNH. Just 11 more join that club when you look at the rest of the Championship Subdivision.

We've had a few folks ask us to take a look at McDonnell as a possible answer, so that's what we're going to do.

Why he'd be a good fit as UB's next football

He wins: McDonnell has been in place in New Hampshire since 1999 and has a 124-72 overall record, with 11 straight winning seasons. The Wildcats have won two conference championships in that time and are 9-10 in the FCS Playoffs, including a run to the semifinals last year. UNH has finished the season ranked in each of the last four years and is currently ranked #1 after Coastal Carolina lost to Liberty.

He's getting better: This could be lumped into the above, but McDonnell's New Hampshire teams of the last few years are the best he's ever had. UNH had never been ranked at the end of the season prior 2010 and they've done it every year since. 2013 was their highest yet, and 2014 will be even better if they keep winning.

He's a Northeast Guy: McDonnell has never coached outside of the Northeast, spending time at Hamilton, Boston University, Boston College, and Columbia before heading to New Hampshire. To the extent that there's talent in this region, no one other than Tom Bradley on our list has been recruiting it longer. Once upon a time McDonnell had secured the commitment of Naaman Roosevelt before UB swayed him with the prospect of a QB spot.

He's not an up-and comer: McDonnell would not have stayed at UNH for so long if he was intent on moving higher up the ladder. There are plenty of stories on each side of the coin when you're talking about hiring an older coach, but for the polarized "fan"base (I use 'fan' lightly to include the general perception of WNYers who are quick to criticize UB) that Conrad wrote about a few weeks ago, McDonnell may be a noncontroversial winner.

Football is the #1 at UB: This is almost egregiously speculative, but at UB McDonnell would have something he doesn't have at in New Hampshire: a team that can be the clear number-one on campus if it wins. McDonnell in the last five years has matched and exceeded the postseason highs of University of No Hardware hockey head coach Dick Umile, but the Whit will always be the first choice for Wildcats fans. Maybe ego plays a role.

Why he mightn't be UB's next football coach

He's not an up-and-comer: McDonnell has been at UNH for nearly a quarter of a century. He's got a team that would maybe beat UB this year. (64-spot advantage in Sagarin Ratings). His $255,000/year salary is not worlds below what UB can offer right now. Even if everything falls apart at UNH, he's likely got enough goodwill to last five or so more years and carry into retirement. We don't know if he's interested in more prestige, but if he's not, he likely wouldn't take the hotter seat with the modest at best pay raise.

He's a Northeast Guy: I know it's painfully cliche to use the same things as above, but it's true. Part of Gill's success and Quinn's downfall was their recruiting footprint. For all his success at the FBS level, McDonnell has built a roster in Durham that has just 13 players from south of the Mason Dixon or west of Pittsburgh, and eight of those are from the DMV area barely below the line.

Is he big enough?: There are Bull Runners among us who think even a guy who coached some of the best defenses in the country at Penn State isn't big enough a splash for Danny White, who has notably hired coaches with elite playing and/or coaching experience. All the reasons that McDonnell would satisfy a majority of Conrad's view of the fanbase are reasons against him in the world that wants something big.

I would be happy to see McDonnell on the sidelines next year, though his hire would be a conservative one. I like him because he has extended experience as a head coach building and maintaining success, and seems to have done it without blue-chip talent from the country's recruiting hotbeds. I would be concerned by his hire given the fact that he does not have any experience in the highest level of college football.

On the other axis of this process, I would be extremely surprised if McDonnell agreed to leave Durham for UB. At the end of last season he had scheduled an interview with UMass, but turned the Minutemen down prior to the meeting. I sincerely want to believe that UB as a football program is more appealing to a coach, but UMass as an athletic program is perhaps Buffalo's closest peer in the north.

I'm including a poll here because I think that's a good idea. Do vote and share your thoughts in the comments.