Don McConnaughey, Courtesy Photo

Don McConnaughey, Courtesy Photo

Longtime Highline College coach, athletic director dies at 90

Don McConnaughey was the ‘architect of the Highline College athletic department.’

Don McConnaughey, longtime Highline College athletic director and track coach, died Feb. 8 at age 90.

McConnaughey retired from the Des Moines college in 1993 after a 30-year career. Under his leadership, Highline’s track team won Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC) championships in 1968 and 1989.

“Don McConnaughey was the architect of the Highline College athletic department,” said Highline College Athletic Director John Dunn.

“His impact on the development of each and every sports program is still felt today. He was an amazing leader who always fought for the student athletes and the betterment of the athletic department,” Dunn said. “As well, he was a prominent leader in the NWAC and was instrumental in many of the rules and regulations that are still followed to this day.”

Very few people can support the word ‘legend,’ Dunn said, but “Don was indeed a legend. He will be sorely missed.”

In 1961, McConnaughey moved his family to the Seattle area after he was hired at Highline High as a biology teacher and assistant coach. Melba, his wife, also was hired at Highline High and for 30 years taught honors writing, English and literature. He installed the Amarillo defense (which he learned from coach Bum Phillips) at Highline and wound up teaching it to many northwest area high school and college coaches while producing several powerhouse Highline High teams for several years in the early 1960s in the very competitive old Puget Sound League.

McConnaughey was hired in 1963 to begin a football program at Highline College, but the school then decided not to offer the sport.

He eventually moved to the new college campus as a physical education/health instructor. After plans for a football program were scrapped, he started the Thunderbird track and cross country teams from scratch.

His son, Tom McConnaughey, is a national scout for the Los Angeles Chargers and former head football coach of Federal Way High School.

Don McConnaughey’s previous experience included five years coaching and teaching at Amarillo High School in Texas and coaching at the high school level in Norphlet, Arkansas.

McConnaughey played football and ran track at the University of Central Arkansas (formerly Arkansas State Teachers College) in 1949 and the early 1950s, where he was an all-conference end and one of the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference’s top sprinters during that time, his son said.

In 1951, Don McConnaughey’s college career was interrupted by two years of active combat duty serving in the Korean War, where his artillery outfit was involved in heavy firing on the front lines, his son said.

As a three-sport athlete at Rogers High School in Arkansas in the late 1940s, McConnaughey was an all-state end in football and a top high school sprinter at state track meets.

After retiring from Highline, McConnaughey and his wife enjoyed driving their RV to Arizona during the winter and moved to Ocean Shores. He was preceded in death by his wife of 66 years.


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