Longtime UT Martin softball coach Donley Canary has announced his retirement.
In his 18-year head coaching career, Canary guided the Skyhawks to a pair of OVC regular season championships, two OVC Tournament championships and three postseason appearances. His 581 wins are not only a school record but are the fourth-most in conference history, as he earned the OVC Coach of the Year award on two separate occasions (2010, 2012).
“After much thought and deliberation, I have decided to step down as the head coach at UT Martin,” Canary said. “I want to thank the University for allowing me to serve in this position for 18 years. It has been a great honor and privilege to do so. Next, I want to thank former athletic director Phil Dane for taking a chance on a young assistant baseball coach to lead his softball program. Hopefully, I did not disappoint him or the University.”
Canary came to UT Martin from his alma mater Tennessee Tech, where he held various positions in athletics before taking his first head coaching job with the Skyhawks. He coached two OVC Players of the Year, two OVC Pitchers of the Year, two OVC Tournament Most Valuable Players, four OVC Freshmen of the Year and 99 All-OVC selections over his 18 seasons at the helm.
Canary’s success was evident from the beginning, as he brought in a stellar recruiting class for his first UT Martin squad in 2002. The Skyhawks won 14 more games than the previous season and were lauded as the second-most improved Division I softball program in the nation.
In just Canary’s third season as skipper, UT Martin posted a 40-21 record – the first of two 40-win campaigns in his career. The Skyhawks also compiled a .720 winning percentage (18-7) against conference foes in 2004, firmly establishing the foundation as an OVC powerhouse.
UT Martin’s first-ever OVC Tournament championship came in 2009. The Skyhawks entered the field as the No. 4 seed and dramatically rallied to win five straight games after an opening round loss to advance to the NCAA Tournament. It marked the first time in OVC history that a team had come out of the first round loser’s bracket to eventually win the crown.
That momentum carried forward into the 2010 campaign, as UT Martin went 47-11 with a remarkable 22-3 league record to bring home the school’s first OVC regular season title.
A truly historical season was in store for 2012, as the Skyhawks seized both the OVC regular season and tournament championships en route to their second NCAA Tournament appearance in four years. In the process, UT Martin swept the OVC’s three major postseason awards of Player of the Year, Pitcher of the Year and Coach of the Year.
The 2017 season featured a pair of milestones for Canary and the Skyhawk program. Canary won his 500th career game on March 1 and was later honored for his accomplishment at the National Fastpitch Coaches Association convention in Las Vegas. The 2017 UT Martin squad went 39-20 overall with a 13-5 conference record, earning an at-large berth into the inaugural National Invitational Softball Championship postseason event.
Overall, Canary’s Skyhawk teams qualified for the OVC Tournament in 16 out of his 18 seasons at the helm.
Canary also oversaw several facility improvements at Bettye Giles Field during his tenure, including the building of the 7,000-square foot Baseball/Softball Fieldhouse as part of “Skyhawk Park” area of campus. A hitting facility was installed early in his tenure while the infield received an update in 2013 with a turf field halo ring that facilitated performance and improved maintenance. Additional renovations were implemented following the 2018 season with new grandstand seating behind home plate with handicap accessibility.
“I want to thank my wife and son for supporting me through 26 years of college coaching,” Canary said. “Coaching at this level is totally consuming. It is a job with few days off if one wants to succeed at this level. One of my strengths is my passion and love for the game. It is also my greatest weakness. I have put the game and striving to win in front of my family many times and they understood my drive to excel at the college level. I wanted to be the best at my profession. I hope retirement will offer me the chance to slow down and enjoy some things I have missed over my college coaching career.”
(UTM Sports Information)