UCLA’s most successful football coach and former 49ers general manager Terry Donahue dies at 77

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Los Angeles –Terry Donahue, the most successful coach in Pac-12 conference and in UCLA football history, who went on to serve as general manager of the NFL San Francisco 49ers, died on Sunday. He was 77 years old.

The school said he died at his Newport Beach home after a two-year battle with cancer.

Donahue has the most wins – 98 – of any coach in Pac-12 history and also the most wins – 151 – in UCLA history. He coached the Bruins from 1971 to 1975, working as an assistant under Pepper Rodgers and then Dick Vermeil, before becoming head coach at 31 and serving from 1976 to 1995. His first job out of college was as an assistant. from Rodgers to Kansas for a season.

Donahue was the first to appear in a Rose Bowl game as a player, assistant coach and head coach. The Bruins won the New Years game in 1983, 1984 and 1986 during his tenure as coach. He was the first varsity coach to achieve bowl game victories in seven consecutive seasons, from 1983 to 1989.

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In this September 10, 1988 file photo, UCLA coach Terry Donahue is blown off the field by his players after UCLA defeated Nebraska, 41-28 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. The victory was Donahue’s 100th as coach of the Bruins. Donahue, the most successful coach in Pac-12 conference and in UCLA football history, who went on to serve as general manager of the NFL 49ers in San Francisco, died on Sunday, July 4, 2021. He was 77 years old.

(AP Photo / Reed Saxon, file)


Born in Los Angeles, Terrence Michael Donahue graduated from Notre Dame High in Sherman Oaks before going to UCLA. He joined the football team as a walk-in defensive lineman in 1965. He helped the Bruins claim their first-ever Rose Bowl victory in 1966 with a surprise against the previously undefeated Michigan State. and ranked among the best.

He had a coaching record of 151-74-8 at UCLA and a score of 98-51-5 in the Pac-12 game. The Bruins won or shared five league titles during Donahue’s tenure. He has coached future Hall of Fame members such as quarterback Troy Aikman, safety Kenny Easley and outside linebacker Jonathan Ogden.

Donahue was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2000. He joined the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in 1997, and the Rose Bowl Press Gallery was named in his honor in 2013.

“He embodies everything you strive to be as a coach and as a human being,” said current UCLA football coach Chip Kelly. “From the moment I walked onto campus he has been an incredible mentor and one of the most genuine, humble, toughest men I have ever met. He loved UCLA with everything. he had, and I cannot express how great his advice and friendship was to me. “

After retiring from coaching, Donahue worked for CBS, Fox and NFL Network.

He was director of player personnel for the 49ers in 1999-2000 and general manager of the team from 2001 to 2005. He turned down a chance to coach the Dallas Cowboys, a decision that would have reunited him with Aikman in 1998. .

He is survived by Andrea, his wife of 52 years; daughters Nicole, Michele and Jennifer; and 10 grandchildren.


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