Terry Donahue
Biographical details
Born(1944-06-24)June 24, 1944
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
DiedJuly 4, 2021(2021-07-04) (aged 77)
Newport Beach, California, U.S.
Playing career
Position(s)Defensive tackle
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1968–1970Kansas (DL)
1971–1975UCLA (OL)
Administrative career (AD unless noted)
1999–2000San Francisco 49ers (dir. player pers.)
2001–2005San Francisco 49ers (GM)
Head coaching record
Accomplishments and honors
5 Pac-10 (1982, 1983, 1985, 1987, 1993)
2x Pac-10 Coach of the Year (1985, 1993)
College Football Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2000 (profile)

Terrence Michael Donahue (June 24, 1944 – July 4, 2021) was an American football coach and executive. He served as the head coach at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) from 1976 to 1995, compiling a record of 151–74–8. His 151 wins are the most in UCLA Bruins history, and his 98 wins in the Pac-10 Conference—now known as the Pac-12 Conference—remain the most in the conference's history. Donahue's Bruins won five Pac-10 titles and appeared in four Rose Bowls, winning three. He became the first head coach to win a bowl game in seven consecutive seasons.

Donahue played college football for UCLA as an undersized defensive tackle. He left coaching after the 1995 season to become a college football color commentator. Donahue was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 2000. From 2001 to 2005, he was the general manager for the San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League (NFL).

Early life and playing career

Born in Los Angeles,[1] Donahue attended St. Charles Borromeo Elementary School in North Hollywood, California, and graduated from Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks.[2] After not being recruited in high school, he was a walk-on at San Jose State University, Los Angeles Valley College and then the University of California, Los Angeles.[2][3] He played two seasons for the Bruins as an undersized 6-foot (1.8 m), 190-pound (86 kg) defensive tackle.[2][4] His 1965 team was the school's first to win the Rose Bowl. They were nicknamed "Gutty Little Bruins" because nobody on the defensive line weighed more than 225 pounds (102 kg).[1]

Coaching career

After graduating from UCLA with a bachelor's degree in history,[1] Donahue became an assistant coach at the University of Kansas under Pepper Rodgers. In 1971, he returned to UCLA when Rodgers became their head coach. When Rodgers left, Donahue remained as an assistant under Dick Vermeil before succeeding Vermeil as the head coach in 1976.[2][5] In the season opener, the Bruins won a nationally televised Thursday night game against No. 3-ranked Arizona State,[6] and finished 9–2–1 in his first season.[1] Sports Illustrated said Donahue, who was only in his early 30s, "may be the best young coach in the country."[1] UCLA's best finish under Donahue was 10–1–1 in 1982, with his other 10-win seasons coming in 1987 and 1988 at 10–2.[5]

In the final regular-season game of 1995, the Bruins defeated the USC Trojans, their fifth straight win against their crosstown rival. It was Donahue's 98th conference victory in the Pac-10, surpassing Don James for the most in the conference's history. Afterwards, Donahue announced that he would retire from coaching after their Aloha Bowl game to become a college football analyst with CBS. He has the most wins of any coach in UCLA football history (151).[7] The Los Angeles Times attributed his coaching success to his being "a pioneer in national recruiting".[1] His Bruins squads finished the season ranked in the top 20 on 12 occasions,[5] including five times in the top 10 from 1982 though 1988,[6] though he received some criticism for not winning a national championship.[5][8] He coached 34 first-team All-Americans,[9] and 14 UCLA players from his era were chosen in the first round of the NFL Draft.[1]

Donahue's UCLA teams won four Pac-10 championships and tied for another while winning three Rose Bowls (1983, 1984, and 1986).[10][11] He was the first person to participate in the Rose Bowl as a player, assistant coach and head coach.[1] He compiled a record of 8–4–1 in bowl games and was the first coach to win a bowl game in seven consecutive seasons.[5][12] The Bruins won four New Year's Day bowl games in a row from 1983 to 1986.[5] However, they made just three bowl appearances in his last seven seasons, when their record was 43–35–1 after quarterback Troy Aikman graduated following the 1988 season.[9] Donahue's record was 10–9–1 against USC.[13] He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2000.[14] In 2015, Donahue lamented that he "quit too early" from UCLA. He had wanted the program to be more aggressive to pursue a national championship, but felt that unspecified differences with UCLA athletic officials hampered his effectiveness, prompting his departure.[4][15]

In 1998, Donahue was offered an opportunity to coach in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys. He would have re-united with Aikman. However, negotiations broke down with owner Jerry Jones, who instead hired Chan Gailey.[16][17]

Broadcasting and executive career

Donahue was the lead college football analyst for CBS Sports from 1996 to 1998.[18] He left CBS to join the San Francisco 49ers front office in 1999.[19] He was hand-picked by Bill Walsh to succeed him as general manager.[20] During his first two years in San Francisco, Donahue served as Walsh's director of player personnel.[21] When Walsh retired in 2001, Donahue was elevated to the general manager position, which he held for four seasons.[20][22] In his first two seasons, the 49ers were 22–10 under coach Steve Mariucci. However, the coach was fired after the 2002 season following a 31–6 loss to Tampa Bay in a divisional playoff game. Dennis Erickson was hired as his replacement, but he went 9–23 in two seasons, including a franchise-worst 2–14 in 2004. San Francisco faced salary cap issues during that span, prompting the break up of their playoff-caliber roster, while their high draft picks did not pan out. Donahue and Erickson were fired in January 2005.[23]

In 2006, Donahue became a game analyst for the NFL on Fox and worked on their Bowl Championship Series coverage as well.[24][25] He served as an analyst on College Football Now on NFL Network.[26] He was also an analyst for Dial Global.[27]

Donahue helped found the California Showcase in 2013. The annual football combine provides high school seniors and junior college sophomores the opportunity to showcase their skills to college coaches from Division II, Division III and NAIA schools.[28] He was also on the board of directors of the Lott IMPACT Trophy.[29]

Personal life

Donahue met his wife, Andrea, on a blind date during his first year as a graduate assistant at the University of Kansas and her junior year as an undergraduate. They married two weeks after her graduation in 1969.[30] They had three daughters and ten grandchildren.[31]

On July 4, 2021, Donahue died at his home in Newport Beach, California, following a two-year battle with cancer. He was 77.[1][4]

Awards and honors

Head coaching record

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs Coaches# AP°
UCLA Bruins (Pacific-8/Pacific-10 Conference) (1976–1995)
1976 UCLA 9–2–1 6–1 2nd L Liberty 15 15
1977 UCLA 7–4[a] 5–2[a] T–2nd
1978 UCLA 8–3–1 6–2 2nd T Fiesta 12 14
1979 UCLA 5–6 3–4 7th
1980 UCLA 9–2 5–2 2nd [b] 14 13
1981 UCLA 7–4–1 5–2–1 T–4th L Astro-Bluebonnet
1982 UCLA 10–1–1 5–1–1 1st W Rose 5 5
1983 UCLA 7–4–1 6–1–1 1st W Rose 13 17
1984 UCLA 9–3 5–2 T–3rd W Fiesta 10 9
1985 UCLA 9–2–1 6–2 1st W Rose 6 7
1986 UCLA 8–3–1 5–2–1 T–2nd W Freedom 14 14
1987 UCLA 10–2 7–1 T–1st W Aloha 11 9
1988 UCLA 10–2 6–2 2nd W Cotton 6 6
1989 UCLA 3–7–1 2–5–1 9th
1990 UCLA 5–6 4–4 T–6th
1991 UCLA 9–3 6–2 T–2nd W John Hancock 18 19
1992 UCLA 6–5 3–5 8th
1993 UCLA 8–4 6–2 T–1st L Rose 17 18
1994 UCLA 5–6 3–5 T–5th
1995 UCLA 7–5 4–4 T–5th L Aloha
UCLA: 151–74–8 98–51–5
Total: 151–74–8
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title or championship game berth
  1. ^ a b UCLA later forfeited seven games, five of which were in conference, in 1977 due to an ineligible player. UCLA, the Pac-10, and the NCAA still credit Donahue with all on-field wins.
  2. ^ UCLA was ineligible for post-season play in 1980 due to probation.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Traub, Alex (July 5, 2021). "Terry Donahue, Who Led U.C.L.A. to Bowl Victories, Dies at 77". The New York Times. Retrieved July 6, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d Dodds, Tracy (November 4, 1985). "Everything Always Points to Success for the Man Who's Ratings Rise Faster Than Nielsen's . . . : T H E S H O W DONAHUE". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  3. ^ Evans, Luca (January 31, 2022). "Terry Donahue's legacy lives on with the California Showcase for overlooked recruits". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 13, 2023.
  4. ^ a b c Bolch, Ben (July 4, 2021). "Terry Donahue, the winningest coach in UCLA football history, dies at 77". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Baldwin, Mike (February 3, 1998). "Cowboys Expected to Hire Donahue". The Oklahoman. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  6. ^ a b Whicker, Mark (July 5, 2021). "It was easier to revere Terry Donahue at UCLA than to replace him". Los Angeles Daily News. Retrieved July 6, 2021.
  7. ^ Springer, Steve (December 12, 1995). "END OF AN ERA: DONAHUE RESIGNS". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  8. ^ Oberjuerge, Paul (December 12, 1995). "Donahue refused to think big". The San Bernardino County Sun. p. C1. Retrieved July 6, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  9. ^ a b Davis, Mike (December 12, 1995). "Donahue: Leaving for CBS". The San Bernardino County Sun. p. C2. Retrieved July 6, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  10. ^ Hodges, Jim (December 12, 1995). "Donahue, UCLA Football Coach, to Quit for TV Job". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  11. ^ a b Elliot, Helene (October 12, 2013). "Terry Donahue sees a UCLA team ready for prime time". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  12. ^ "Bruins, Led by Aikman, Win 7th Bowl in a Row". The New York Times. AP. January 3, 1989. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  13. ^ Kuwada, Robert (November 30, 2005). "What could USC and UCLA do with a bye week?". The Orange County Register. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  14. ^ Bonk, Thomas (November 18, 2000). "No Matter the Job, Donahue Never Far From Sidelines". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  15. ^ Wang, Jack (November 25, 2015). "Former UCLA football coach Terry Donahue: 'I quit too early'". Los Angeles Daily News. Retrieved July 6, 2021.
  16. ^ Justice, Richard (February 13, 1998). "FORMER STEELERS ASSISTANT GAILEY HIRED TO COACH COWBOYS". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  18. ^ Stewart, Larry (September 2, 1999). "Time-Honored Tradition Returns". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 6, 2021.
  19. ^ Stewart, Larry (January 18, 1999). "Donahue Takes Job in 49er Front Office". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  20. ^ a b "Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh, who won 3 Super Bowls with the 49ers, dead at 75". ESPN.com. Associated Press. July 31, 2007. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  21. ^ Becker, Jon (May 22, 2019). "Former 49ers general manager being treated for cancer". The Mercury News. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  22. ^ Hack, Damon (January 6, 2005). "49ers' Coach and G.M. Are Out in Shake-Up". The New York Times. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  23. ^ "Terry Donahue, former 49ers GM and UCLA coach, dies". The Mercury News. Associated Press. July 5, 2021. Retrieved July 6, 2021.
  24. ^ Stewart, Larry (September 7, 2006). "Bettis Makes a Smooth Transition From Football". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  25. ^ Sarni, Jim (January 1, 2007). "Fox's big chance to bowl us over starts up today". South Florida Sun Sentinel. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  26. ^ Bonk, Thomas (October 25, 2007). "His seat was never this hot". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  27. ^ Simers, T.J. (November 10, 2012). "Terry Donahue doesn't want to argue about it". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  28. ^ Stewart, Larry (February 24, 2020). "California Showcase has become a showpiece for young football players". The Orange County Register. Retrieved July 6, 2021.
  29. ^ "Free football clinic featuring Terry Donahue, John Robinson, Mike White offered at Newport Harbor High". The Daily Pilot. April 25, 2017. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  30. ^ Rausch, Gary (September 7, 1976). "Andrea Donahue: takes special lady to be wife of UCLA football coach". Independent. Long Beach, California. p. C-6. Retrieved July 6, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  31. ^ Jacob Lev (July 5, 2021). "Former UCLA football coach Terry Donahue dies at 77". CNN. Retrieved July 6, 2021.
  32. ^ a b c d "Terry Donahue Pavilion to be Dedicated at UCLA-Cal Football Game". Pac-12.com. October 9, 2013. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  33. ^ "Terry Donahue Named 2008 UCLA Alumnus of the Year". UCLA Athletics. April 30, 2008. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  34. ^ Virgen, Steve (December 15, 2016). "Lott Trophy thrills many". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 22, 2018.
  35. ^ "Terry Donahue Coaching Record". Sports Reference. Retrieved July 5, 2021.