Elmhurst has named Jeff McDonald as its new head football coach. McDonald, who has spent the past two seasons as the defensive coordinator at Illinois Wesleyan, becomes the 20th head coach in Elmhurst history.
No stranger to the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW), McDonald helped guide Illinois Wesleyan to back-to-back CCIW championships, the Titans' first consecutive titles in 17 years. The Titans' 2018 squad posted an 8-2 overall record and tied for the CCIW championship with an 8-1 league mark. Illinois Wesleyan's defense led the league in total takeaways (23) and interceptions (17).
The 2017 Titan squad finished as the CCIW's co-champions and earned a bid to the NCAA playoffs. McDonald's defense led the CCIW in scoring defense and rushing defense, allowing just one rushing touchdown in the regular season. Nationally, the Titans ranked fourth in rushing defense, 11th in scoring defense and 23rd in total defense. McDonald coached two All-Americans and 10 all-conference performers over the past two seasons.
"I'm grateful and humbled that I've been trusted to lead this tremendous group of young men," said McDonald. "The vision that Elmhurst has in terms of its student-athletes reaching their full potential in all facets of their lives falls in line with what I believe. I've always wanted to be a part of a small liberal arts college where student-athletes are true students first. I promise to all of our alums that we will take care of this program that belongs to all of them. I appreciate the tradition and history and I'm going to do whatever possible to make this program something they can be proud of on the field, off the field and in the community."
Prior to joining Illinois Wesleyan, McDonald spent eight seasons at Wesleyan. While at Wesleyan, McDonald served as the team's defensive coordinator, linebackers coach, recruiting coordinator and special teams coordinator. He helped Wesleyan win its first-ever NESCAC championship in 2013 after the team posted its first winning record in over a decade in 2012.
In 2014, under McDonald's direction, the Cardinals' defense ranked first in NCAA Division III in total defense. The 2016 squad finished fifth in the nation in total defense, fourth in red zone defense and third in third down defense. McDonald also held administrative duties as the liaison to the Middletown community and as the advisor to the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
"After conducting a national search for our next head football coach with over 170 applicants, Jeff McDonald quickly rose to the top of the pool," said Elmhurst Vice President for Student Affairs Phil Riordan. "Jeff brings a wealth of experience with him to Elmhurst. His experience recruiting across all levels of the NCAA was very appealing to the search committee. Additionally, Jeff spoke about the important process of recruiting, retaining and graduating our student-athletes. I am very excited that Jeff has accepted our offer to be our next head coach."
Before arriving at Wesleyan, McDonald spent several years coaching at the Division I level. He served as the defensive coordinator for Towson University in 2008 and as the linebackers coach at the University of New Hampshire in 2001. McDonald spent seven seasons as an assistant coach at Yale University from 2002-07. He helped the Bulldogs capture an Ivy League Championship in 2006 while coaching the team's defensive line. Yale's defense finished the 2007 season ranked first in scoring defense in the FCS.
McDonald began his collegiate coaching career at Quincy, serving as the team's linebackers coach, defensive line coach and defensive coordinator from 1998-2001.
McDonald knows that winning won't come easy in the highly competitive CCIW, but he is already laying out both short-term and long-term goals.
"The first thing for us is, we've got to get back to ringing the victory bell at Langhorst Field," said McDonald. "Our job will be to build a program that puts us in a position to sustain success and start competing for CCIW Championships on a regular basis."
McDonald earned his bachelor's degree from the University of South Florida in 1995 and he received a master's degree from Quincy University in 2004. He and his wife, Rebecca, have a daughter, Olivia.