Terry Donahue, Who Led U.C.L.A. to Bowl Victories, Dies at 77

Terry Donahue, Who Led U.C.L.A. to Bowl Victories, Dies at 77

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Terry Donahue, who became the face of football at U.C.L.A. as a player and coach, staying in the latter position for 20 years and leading the school to seven consecutive bowl-winning seasons in the 1980s, died on Sunday at his home in Newport Beach, Calif. He was 77.

The cause was cancer, U.C.L.A. said.

Donahue won more games than any other coach in the school’s and the Pac-12 Conference’s history, and he ended his career with a winning record against each of the conference’s teams, including the Bruins’ crosstown rival, the University of Southern California Trojans.

Overall, he won 151 of the 233 games he coached, and 98 of those victories were in the Pac-10 (as the conference was known before adding two teams in 2011). His eighth and final win in a bowl came in the 1991 John Hancock Bowl.

Donahue’s streak of bowl victories included Rose Bowl wins in ’83, ’84 and ’86. He was the first person to appear in the Rose Bowl as a player, an assistant coach and a coach.

On the field, Donahue played in 1966 in U.C.L.A.’s first Rose Bowl victory. The team earned the nickname “Gutty Little Bruins” because nobody on the defensive line weighed more than 225 pounds. Donahue, a walk-on, weighed just 195 pounds.

He brought the same overachieving spirit to his tenure as a coach. Some of U.C.L.A.’s best players in the Donahue era, like the future Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden, came from regions far from California. The famed quarterback Troy Aikman transferred to U.C.L.A. from another college football program.

He got his start as a coach by asking a former mentor, Pepper Rodgers, to take him on as an unpaid assistant for the University of Kansas Jayhawks. When Rodgers became head coach at U.C.L.A., Donahue followed him. Rodgers’s successor, Dick Vermeil, left to coach the Philadelphia Eagles in 1976, and Donahue took over, even though he was in his early 30s.


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