Jim Dunne, the long-time former Grinnell Tigers Varsity Football Coach has been inducted into the IFCA (Iowa Football Coaches Association) Hall of Fame. Dunne spent 34 years coaching and teaching at Grinnell, where he won nine district titles and compiled a record of 174-67, while making the playoffs 15 times during his coaching tenure. Twice, he was a Coach of the Year finalist and was named the Class 3A Coach of the Year in 1998. He is shown with his son, Eli, who played quarterback at UNI, his wife, Sara, and daughter, Katelin Ferguson. He also has a daughter, Nicole Hart, and three grandchildren, who reside in Texas.
by J.O. Parker
Jim Dunne, the long-time former Grinnell Tigers Varsity Football Coach, has been named to the IFCA (Iowa Football Coaches Association) Hall of Fame.
Dunne was presented with the honor at the Iowa State Football Playoffs in November.
All 34 years of Dunne’s varsity football coaching career came at Grinnell, where he spent 11 seasons as an assistant under Steve Kriegel, and then 23 as an award-winning head coach.
Dunne, who played football at Coe College, said he knew that teaching and coaching was a profession he was meant to do.
“I was hired in 1981 as a recent college graduate to teach social studies and become a varsity assistant football coach at Grinnell,” he said.
Dunne won nine district titles and recorded a 174-67 record as a head coach, twice as Coach of the Year finalist and Class 3A’s Coach of the Year in 1998. Grinnell was the Class 3A runner-up in that 1998 season, tying their best finish in program history.
His Tiger teams went to the playoffs 15 times, and included 59 all-state players throughout his tenure. The long-time social studies teacher and activities director was also a Shrine Bowl coach in 1997.
When asked what he enjoyed the most about being a coach, Dunne said number one was the relationships he built with the players, assistant coaches and opposing coaches.
“The other aspects that I thoroughly enjoyed were the preparations (game planning and practices) to get ready to battle an opponent,” said Dunne. “I also love challenges and football coaching certainly provided that on a weekly basis.”
When asked for some of the highlights of his career, Dunne said the semi-final game in 1998 against number one ranked Decorah, which Grinnell won, is one his top memories.
“We defeated them on the scoreboard, but we physically wore them down,” he said. “From 1997-2001 we went five years without losing a district game.”
He added that coaching his son, Eli, was also a highlight of his coaching career.
“The opportunity to coach my own son after coaching so many other people’s son was a great memory I will have forever,” said Dunne. “Eli certainly lived up to his dad’s expectations, becoming a three-time all-stater and leading his teams to three straight playoffs.”
When asked what it means to receive the Hall of Fame honor, Dunne said, “Humbling.”
“In 1981, when I came to Grinnell as a 22-year-old right out of college, I never dreamed I would stay as long as I did at Grinnell and have the success that we were able to attain,” he said. “I had a great mentor in HOF coach Steve Kriegel. I think what makes me proud of our accomplishments at Grinnell is the fact that in the 34 years of coaching at Grinnell, we only had three losing seasons. Our toughest year was in 1995 when we went 1-8 with a squad of at times less than 20 kids. After that year, we won six straight district titles. The fact that we were consistently very competitive was very satisfying. Hopefully I had a positive impact on kids and taught them how to do things the right way, with class and dignity.”
Dunne retired from coaching and teaching in 2015.
Dunne and his wife, Sara, have three children: Nicole Hart, Katelin Ferguson and Eli Dunne. They also have three grandchildren, who live in Texas.