Former UCLA football coach Terry Donahue died Sunday at his home in Newport Beach surrounded by family and friends, following a two-year battle with cancer. He was 77.
When the news was made public, Donahue’s friends and colleagues shared their thoughts about someone who they valued more as a good person and friend than as UCLA’s winningest football coach.
“He was a great coach but an even better person,” ESPN broadcaster Sean McDonough said. “He was a man of considerable faith and a tremendous family man.”
Shortly after Donahue’s retirement as UCLA coach in 1995, he joined CBS as a broadcaster and traveled with McDonough to various parts of the country to call games on television.
The news of his passing did not come as a complete surprise to his friends as the Donahue family provided them the opportunity to send in a video and express their gratitude to the coach, who spent 20 years at the helm of the Bruins’ football program.
“I sent him a video the other day and one of the things I’ve mentioned to him was a list of all the analysts I’ve worked with over the years,” McDonough said.”It has about 160 people and there’s nobody I’ve enjoyed working with more than him. … I’m proud of the work we did together.”
Many will remember Donahue’s success on the field, including his winning record (10-9-1) against crosstown rival USC and UCLA’s three victories in four Rose Bowl Game appearances.
Ann Meyers Drysdale, the former UCLA women’s basketball player (1974-1978), will remember Donahue as a giving and caring person based on the experiences she had with him.
Meyers Drysdale was a student-athlete for UCLA while Donahue was beginning his transition from assistant coach to head football coach as Dick Vermeil’s successor.
In later years, she would work on the board of directors for the Lott Trophy with Donahue and former UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero.
“When working with Terry he always brought knowledge and patience,” Meyers Drysdale said. “He was always giving back and helping others which he did at UCLA all the time.”
Donahue, in conjunction with the National Football Foundation, hosted an annual one-day free event held at the Great Park of Orange County in Irvine.
High school football players were given the opportunity to exhibit their skills for college coaches from Division II, Division III and NAIA schools.
Corona High football coach Ron Gueringer formed a bond with Donahue when he joined the Bruins football program as a walk-on in 1977.
“I think that’s how our relationship started and we bonded,” Gueringer said. “I was determined to make it and I think he saw some of the same values in himself as a player from when he first started at UCLA.”
Gueringer spent time as a coach at Donahue’s showcase and witnessed the impact the event would have on younger athletes.
“It was a fantastic deal,” Gueringer said. “It was about the opportunity to create scholarships and money for players who didn’t get seen (by scouts) and for them to understand that Division 2 and Division 3 schools have opportunities available for them as well.”
Any student-athlete who had not been offered a Division I scholarship was eligible to attend the showcase at no charge.
“I had a player (San Gorgiono’s Mikal Berry) that went there and Donahue was so impressed with him that he ended up getting a scholarship to San Jose State,” Gueringer said. “He went from being a guy looking at Division 2 or 3 schools and ended up going to a Division 1 school.”
Donahue will also be remembered as a family man and for the close relationship he had with Andrea, his wife of 52 years.
“He was a tremendous family man,” McDonough said. “He couldn’t be a more loving husband.
“He and Andrea were married for all those years and would look at each other like they’d just met last week. They had great kids and great grandkids. He was a wonderful and classy friend.”
This post first appeared on ocregister.com