Tributes poured in from around the nation this week for Terry Donahue—the winningest football coach in UCLA and Pacific-12 Conference history—who died July 4 at his Newport Beach home after a two-year battle with cancer.
Donahue, 77, was the first person to appear in a Rose Bowl Game as a player, assistant coach and head coach. His 151 wins are the most in UCLA history. He also won more Pac-12 games than any other coach, with a 98-51-5 record.
He won or shared five conference titles during his 20-year head coaching career. During his tenure, the Bruins won three Rose Bowls—1983, 84, 86—and in 2013, the Rose Bowl press box was named in his honor, the Terry Donahue Pavilion.
He also had a winning record where it mattered most—against crosstown rival, USC. Against the Trojans, Donahue went 10-9-1.
“We mourn the loss of a true Bruin and college football legend,’’ UCLA tweeted.
“There aren’t enough words to properly honor Terry Donahue and what he means to the Bruin family and anyone who has had the pleasure of knowing him. He epitomizes everything you strive to be as a coach and as a human being,’’ said Chip Kelly, the Bruins’ current football coach.
“Since the moment I stepped on campus, he’s been an incredible mentor and one of the most authentic, humble and toughest men I’ve ever met. He loved UCLA with all he had, and I can’t express how important his guidance and friendship has been for me.”
Donahue began playing for the Bruins in 1965 and helped the team to its first Rose Bowl victory against unbeaten Michigan State. He served as an assistant coach first under Pepper Rodgers, then Dick Vermeil. He became head coach during the 1976 season at age 31 and served until 1995.
Donahue coached 34 first-team All-America players, including future Pro Football Hall of Famers Troy Aikman, Jonathan Ogden and Kenny Easley.
Another UCLA coaching legend, the late John Wooden, once praised Donahue’s devotion to the Westwood campus:
“I believe that a head coach, particularly at UCLA, should be judged by his or her peers within the university community-at-large as to whether the student-athletes with whom the coach was entrusted become not only excellent athletes but also, and more importantly, better students and better all-around individuals,’’ the iconic basketball coach said of his colleague. “There is no doubt in my mind that Terry Donahue deserves the recognition of having achieved that very ethereal form of success.’’
In 2000, Donahue was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Three years earlier, he was selected to the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame. He was also a member of the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame, class of 2001. And he was named by ESPN as one of the 150 Greatest College Coaches of all time.
Donahue was born in Los Angeles, graduated from Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks.