James 'Jim' Donlevy
Jim’s professional career as a coach and administrator spanned more than fifty years. He started coaching bantam and high school football in 1954. As an assistant coach with the Edmonton Huskies from 1961 to 1963 he won two Canadian titles. Jim coached the University of Alberta Golden Bears to four National Championship games, with Vanier Cup victories in 1972 and 1980, and set the record for Golden Bears football coaches with 89 wins. As the WHL’s Education Consultant from 1993 to 2015, Jim built a formal education and scholarship program for student athletes who played in the league.
Ron Robison, Commissioner of the Western Hockey League stated,
“We credit Jim as the individual who was primarily responsible for building the largest privately funded amateur sports scholarship program in Canada and one of the most comprehensive education programs for hockey in the world today.”
Jim originally saw the benefits and importance of athletes furthering their education while he taught and coached at the University of Alberta. He became a part of the football coaching staff in 1965 and was named head coach in 1971. His impact was immediate - as he took the team to the National Championship game two years in a row, in 1971 and 1972. He coached the team to back-to-back championship games again in 1980 and 1981. As of 2018, the 1980 Vanier Cup victory remains the last championship victory for the Bears.
Jim took a sabbatical from the U of A and coaching in 1982 and 1983. He returned to coach the Bears from 1984 to 1990 and his overall record of 89 wins, 69 losses and 3 ties set the standard for future U of A football coaches. He was named Conference Coach of the Year three times, in 1971, 1984, and 1987, and was a provincial coach of the year two times.
Along with his professional career, Jim was also a volunteer who spent countless hours devoted to help the growth and development of sport. During the 1960s, he was one of the founding fathers of the Alberta Coaches Association (later known as the Alberta Amateur Football Association and then in 1972, Football Alberta). He served as president of the Alberta Football Coaches Association, Football Alberta, and the Canadian University Football Coaches Association. He was commissioner of the Canada West Universities Athletic Association. In 1982 and 1983, he dedicated his time and efforts to the Universiade Games as second in command. He also served as Mayor of the Athletes Village. Between 1991 and 2016, Jim served as the Canada West football convenor and worked with the conference’s head coaches and administrators to shape the direction of university football.
Jim impacted generations of student-athletes in both football and hockey. He gave them a choice for career options through education which left them better prepared for when their playing days were over. His commitment to the coaches, the sport, and the various levels of play will remain invaluable for years to come.
Jim Donlevy was inducted onto the University of Alberta Wall of Fame in 1996. He received the WHL Governors Award in 2013, and Canada West honoured him for his work with football in 2016.