The great UCLA soccer coach Terry Donahue dies at the age of 77

Terry Donahue won more soccer games at UCLA than any other coach, establishing a blue-and-gold standard for continued success in his 20 seasons at the school.

None of this would have been possible without his two greatest triumphs: playing for the Bruins and training them.

When a defensive tackle that was too small was skipped from school, leading to stops at San Jose State and LA Valley College, he went from a designated practice tackling dummy to a two-year starter and member of the first Rose Bowl Championship team the school.

As a coach, he rose from an untested 31-year-old to a well-respected veteran, his 151 victories more than doubling the sum of all others in school history. His 98 Pacific 10 victories are still considered to be the most in the history of the conference.

Donahue, the eternally tanned, humble and seemingly timeless coach who led the Bruins to their longest career in football under a single coach, died Sunday night at his Newport Beach home with his family after a two-year battle with cancer. announced the school. He was 77.

UCLA announced in May 2019 that Donahue had had an operation for an unknown type of cancer and was starting chemotherapy. Donahue leaves behind his wife Andrea and three daughters Nicole, Michele and Jennifer as well as three sons-in-law and 10 grandchildren.

Under Donahue, UCLA won four Pac-10 championships and tied for another. Donahue became the first coach to win a bowl game for seven consecutive seasons, and his teams made it into the national top 10 five times.

It was a dizzying wealth for someone whose humble beginnings in the sport temporarily led him to consider a career as a boxer.

“I’m a high-flyer,” said Donahue after winning 9-2-1 in his first season as UCLA head coach in 1976, “and very, very … ah, average. Actually, ‘sorry’ is probably the word I’m looking for. “

Donahue’s teams were far from pathetic. In his first game as a coach, the Bruins upset third-placed Arizona State and legendary Sun Devils coach Frank Kush, 28-10, in Tempe, Arizona, but only after Pepper Rodgers, Donahue’s UCLA predecessor, pacified the nervous rookie coach .

“Donahoo,” Rodgers said, deliberately teasing his protégé with the wrong pronunciation, “you and Kush don’t play. It’s your players. “

Donahue regularly beat the top Pac-10 coaches, including Washington’s Don James and USC’s John Robinson. Donahue won his last five games against the Trojans, part of a UCLA record-breaking series of dominance in the rivalry that eventually reached eight games under successor Bob Toledo.

Donahue’s early UCLA teams were known for a sluggish, ground-based attack that won games, not to mention a legion of critics ridiculed for being overly conservative in their approach.

But after the Bruins lost 5-6 in 1979, Donahue decided that some of the criticism was warranted. He hired Homer Smith, a Harvard trained offensive coordinator, who brought in an airstrike that highlighted the talents of quarterbacks Troy Aikman, Steve Bono, Jay Schroeder, Tommy Maddox and Tom Ramsey. UCLA combined a number of trick games, especially against teams that were considered talented, to produce amazing results.

The Bruins went through with 9-2 in 1980, but were not eligible for a bowl game due to academic inadequacies. The following season began a streak of eight consecutive bowl berths that ended with seven straight wins, including four in a row on New Years Day. UCLA won the Rose Bowls, the ’85 Fiesta Bowl, the ’86 Rose Bowl, the ’86 Freedom Bowl, the ’87 Aloha Bowl and the ’89 Cotton Bowl in 1983 and 1984.

“He was a great man,” said Scott Altenberg, who played for Donahue long after his father Kurt caught the game-winning touchdown to beat USC as Donahue’s teammate in 1965 as part of a Bruins team that later won the Rose Bowl. “A bruin to the end.”

Donahue finished his UCLA career with a 151-74-8 record, not to mention some regrets after what was widely considered a December 1995 early retirement. While publicly hesitating about his future, some Bruins players thought Donahue gave a clue while participating in the team’s season-end ritual of jumping over a wall after the final practice session.

UCLA manager Terry Donohue hugs a sideline mate during a game against USC on November 26, 1977 in Los Angeles.

(Associated Press)

But the day Donahue was to announce his plans, the uncertainty persisted. Marc Dellins, UCLA’s director of sports information, prepared two press releases, one saying that Donahue was leaving and another that he would stay. It wasn’t until the words left Donahue’s mouth that he was retiring to take a television job at CBS that his decision was official.

He later admitted it was the wrong choice.

“I have no doubt I quit too soon,” Donahue told the Los Angeles Daily News in 2015, alluding to unspecified differences with UCLA sports officials who he said hampered his effectiveness and his Exit led.

Born on June 24, 1944 in Los Angeles, Donahue grew up as one of five brothers in North Hollywood. He played football at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High but was not a popular candidate, resulting in an unfortunate season as a walk-on in San Jose State.

Donahue returned to Southern California and used his combative streak – as a boxer.

He won an amateur fight in a long closed arena in the San Fernando Valley against an opponent who outweighed him by 40 pounds. Since this was the beginning of a promising career, Donahue’s handlers wanted him to fight another young heavyweight named Jerry Quarry, who would later become “The Bellflower Bomber”.

But Donahue’s new attempt was made by his father, Dr. Bill Donahue, concerned about his welfare, put a quick end to it.

“If you live in my house and want to eat my food,” said the elder Donahue, “you won’t box.”

Donahue attended LA Valley College for a year before arriving at UCLA as a 197-pound walk-on who didn’t play a single snap all season.

Tommy Prothro, then UCLA coach, didn’t even know Donahue’s name and called him Donny Donovan. Donahue was similarly downcast when Prothro admitted that he didn’t mind losing him to an expulsion from a game with the Stanford quarterback. “I’ll swap a defensive tackle for a quarterback anytime,” joked Prothro.

But Donahue would win more than respect in his last two seasons as one of Prothro’s brave little Bruins. He became the first defensive tackle while starting 21 games in a row, including the Bruins’ epic surprise over senior Michigan State in the 1966 Rose Bowl.

His coaching career had a similarly fortunate rise.

Donahue’s first job was in 1967 as an unpaid assistant to Rodgers in Kansas, where Donahue only got a movie pass to every theater in town and an invitation to dine with the football players. He made ends meet by managing a residential complex.

UCLA soccer coach Terry Donohue gives a thumbs up during a practice session at the 1995 Rose Bowl.

UCLA soccer coach Terry Donohue gives a thumbs up during a practice session at the 1995 Rose Bowl.

(Los Angeles times)

The next season, Rodgers put his young assistant on the team and paid him $ 7,500 a year. Donahue followed Rodgers as offensive line coach at UCLA when Rodgers got the boss job prior to the 1971 season, and stayed under Dick Vermeil when Rodgers joined Georgia Tech three years later.

Donahue was about to get his big chance. Vermeil resigned after the 1975 season to coach the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles at a time when the Bruins were on the eve of high school graduates being forced to declare their college loyalty. Fearing an exodus of recruits should he hire an outsider, UCLA sporting director JD Morgan Donahue appointed Vermeil’s successor.

“I made a promise to JD to stay and build the program,” Donahue said the day he announced his resignation in 1995. “I feel like I’ve fulfilled my obligation.”

Donahue flirted with three NFL coaching jobs just to stay at UCLA. He thought seriously about offers from the Atlanta Falcons and Dallas Cowboys, and also considered taking on the Los Angeles Rams job in 1994 before learning that the team was leaving for St. Louis.

He finally made it to the NFL in 1999, where he served as director of player staff and later as general manager of the San Francisco 49ers. Donahue held the latter post for four seasons before returning to the broadcast booth.

In 2000 he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach. In his final years, Donahue remained a regular on the Rose Bowl press box, which was renamed the Terry Donahue Pavilion in his honor prior to the 2013 season.

“I would hate to leave this place,” Donahue once said of UCLA, “even for heaven.”

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