Skip to main content

Hall of Fame coach Terry Donahue has died

Donahue was the first individual to win the Rose Bowl as a player, assistant and head coach.

College Football Hall of Fame coach Terry Donahue died in his home Sunday after a 2-year battle with cancer, UCLA has announced. He was 77.

A Bruins defensive tackle in 1965-66, he helped the club go 17-3-1, defeating an undefeated Michigan State in the 1966 Rose Bowl.

He entered coaching in 1968 as the defensive line coach at Kansas, then returned to Westwood as the offensive line coach in 1971. Elevated to head coach in 1976, he would last 20 seasons in the job and become the winningest head coach in UCLA and Pac-12 history.

“He epitomizes everything you strive to be as a coach and as a human being,” current UCLA football coach Chip Kelly said. “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.”

His first Bruins team went 9-2-1 with a No. 15 ranking, and from 1982-85 he led the Bruins to three Rose Bowl victories. In all, he went 151-74-8, a UCLA record for wins, and his 98 Pac-12 victories are the most in league history. He won at least five conference titles and finished in the AP top-25 a dozen times, including five AP top-10 rankings.

Donahue is Mr. Rose Bowl. He was the first individual to win the game as a player, assistant coach and head coach, and he's one of three men to win the Grandaddy as a player and lead his alma mater to victory. Donahue was elected to the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in 1997 and the Rose Bowl press box is named in his honor.

He entered the College Football Hall of Fame in 2000. He coached three College and Pro Football Hall of Famers: quarterback Troy Aikman, offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden and safety Kenny Easley. 

Having turned down the Dallas Cowboys head coaching job in 1998, Donahue became the San Francisco 49ers' director of player personnel in 1999 and was promoted to general manager in 2001, a job he would hold until 2005.