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Citing stress-related heart issues and a desire to spend more time with his family, Tyler Donnelly has resigned after eight seasons as the football head coach at Palatine High School.
Donnelly submitted his letter of resignation to Palatine athletic director Jerry Dobbs on Tuesday afternoon and met with his coaching staff that same day. Wednesday after school, he informed the players of his decision.
Donnelly, who was unavailable for comment, went 53-33 overall and 26-14 in the Mid-Suburban West, including three division titles.
"He's been a blessing for Palatine athletics across the board, so I was disappointed, but I understood exactly where he was coming from," Dobbs said.
"He's been phenomenal for Palatine athletics. His impact hasn't only been in football, as he's impacted our athletics program in a great way."
According to Dobbs, the health issues aren't life-threatening, but Donnelly felt that it was the right time to take a step back and spend more time with his wife, Margaret, and their two children, Brooke and Ryan. Donnelly will continue to teach in the social studies department at the school.
Dobbs would like to name a replacement by mid-February, when Palatine will host the girls gymnastics state meet, but he said he wouldn't rush the process. He anticipates candidates from within the program and district, as well as outside of the district.
Donnelly was largely responsible for returning the program to the elite status it enjoyed under former coach Joe Petricca in the late 1980s and 1990s.
When Donnelly took over following Bill LePage in 2005, the program was in the midst of a 7-year stretch in which they went 13-50.
After missing the playoffs in his first two seasons, Donnelly led the Pirates to the playoffs the last six seasons, including two trips to the Class 8A state quarterfinals. In 2011 and 2012, the team was 16-0 against MSL opponents.
After dropping their season opener to Montini this season, Palatine won ten consecutive games before losing to Loyola in the state quarterfinals.
"He took us from where we were, which was struggling as a football program, to where we are now," Dobbs said. "He put in the extra time and dedication. He got the kids to buy into what he was doing through hard work. The other coaches did the same thing, and we started to see the payoff for that."
Without Donnelly, Dobbs is confident the program can continue their run of success because of the standard of excellence that Donnelly has established.
"I don't see us going back to that anytime soon, when we were losing, because our kids expect to play this way," Dobbs said. "That's something that he is going to leave with the program."
Donnelly played fullback for the University of Illinois and was a member of the 1990 Big Ten championship team. He spent 18 years as a coach and was an assistant at DeKalb and Hampshire, including the school's state championship in 1995, before becoming an assistant at Palatine.
And while he will still be around the school, Donnelly's presence as a coach will be missed because of the impact he had on the rest of the athletic department.
"Personally, Tyler has meant a lot to me in my development and to our coaching fraternity at Palatine, as well," said Palatine boys basketball coach Eric Millstone. "He definitely left his mark with not only the whole football program, but the whole athletic program."
"Whoever comes in has some big shoes to fill. Tyler is a blueprint for going about things the right way and having the right approach."
The Donnelly file
Here is Tyler Donnelly's head coaching legacy over eight seasons at Palatine:
2012: 10-2, 5-0 (1st MSL West)
2011: 9-2, 5-0 (1st MSL West)
2010: 7-5, 3-2 (T3rd MSL West)
2009: 7-3, 3-2 (3rd MSL West)
2008: 7-3, 4-1 (T1st MSL West)
2007: 7-4, 4-1 (2nd MSL West
2006: 2-7, 0-5 (6th MSL West)
2005: 4-5, 2-3 (4th MSL West)
Total W-L: 53-31