Donahue Dodges Off-Field Criticism : UCLA: Coach says it's unfair that he take the blame for players whose actions have resulted in criminal charges.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

As the headline writer said, it's hunting season in Westwood. And UCLA Coach Terry Donahue, enduring only his second losing season in 14 years, is the prey.

"You know, I've become an idiot in a period of about three months," Donahue said Monday. "Prior to the season, I was a little smarter than I am today, and I realize that. That's football coaching."

Letter writers and columnists have recently taken him to task for his strategy, his play-calling, his personnel decisions, his choice of assistant coaches and even his work ethic.

None of that, however, seemed to bother Donahue as much as an article published last Thursday in the UCLA student newspaper in which reporter Matt Purdue wrote that Donahue should be held accountable for the off-the-field transgressions that, as much as six losses in nine games, have soiled the Bruins' image this fall.

"UCLA football is out of control," Purdue wrote in the Daily Bruin. "When players' names begin to be seen more on the police blotter than in the postgame statistics, all the questions, all the doubts, all the second-guesses are directed at one person: The head coach."

Purdue wrote his commentary after defensive tackle Stacey Elliott was charged last week with battery, becoming the fourth UCLA player to face criminal charges in the last six months. Elliott allegedly grabbed the buttocks of two female students in separate incidents last summer.

Last May, linebacker Roman Phifer and cornerback Damion Lyons beat up a campus security officer and last September they were convicted of battery. Free safety Willie Crawford was found to be in possession of stolen credit cards last June and was convicted last August of theft.

Phifer, Lyons and Crawford were suspended for the season.

In addition, cornerback Anthony Burnett flunked out of school last summer and split end Kerry Ferrell, who was Crawford's roommate and was with Crawford at the time of Crawford's arrest, left the team unexpectedly a week before the start of the season and returned home to Piscataway, N.J.

Does Donahue feel responsible?

"I think that when you are in a position of responsibility and authority, you are ultimately responsible, to some extent, for almost everything that happens," he said. "Now, there are some things that are beyond your control.

"For instance, you cannot be with a particular individual who's in your program 24 hours a day and I think anybody who doesn't recognize that is very immature and very naive. . . .

"Are parents responsible for everything that their child does? Up to a point, they're implicated, certainly. And then there comes a point where that responsibility has to fall on the shoulders of the individuals."

Donahue also took exception to an article written last month by columnist Steve Bisheff of the Orange County Register.

"(He) said my work ethic wasn't good because I played tennis at noon for one hour," Donahue said. "I would tell the press that that's irresponsible reporting.

"When I won seven bowl games, my work ethic was fine. But I'm having a crappy season and my work ethic's lousy because the guy happened to see me coming off the tennis court at noon during two-a-days.

"My work ethic hadn't changed, but that reporter decided that it had. Just like the reporter from the Daily Bruin decided that I'm responsible (for the Bruins' off-the-field problems). . . .

"I feel very, very comfortable with the image and the example that I've tried to show as the head football coach by my own personal behavior, by my talks with the football players.

"But am I involved (when they get into trouble)? Yeah, I guess I am. I'm the head coach."

Donahue said that he is as troubled by the Bruins' tarnished image as by their poor record.

But, addressing Purdue directly as he spoke at his weekly meeting with the media, he said: "I think what has to be remembered--and what so often is not remembered--is that a football team is an extension of society.

"Let me ask you this: On a college campus, when they have a rape, is the director of admissions responsible for those rapes if they're committed by a student he or she admitted to the university?"

The question, of course, was absurd, to use Donahue's term for Purdue's criticism. But Donahue, who personally recruits almost every player he brings on campus, obviously doesn't feel comfortable taking the blame for all of their actions.

UCLA's off-the-field problems, he said, have hurt the program.

He does not believe, however, that the Bruins' transgressions will have long-lasting implications.

"I think that whatever's been broken can be fixed," he said. "And I honestly believe that from the soles of my feet to the top of my head.

"Now, fixing it can be a difficult process, but I honestly think that whatever has been broken can be fixed and made to be whole again. Or good again.

"I don't think, like Chicken Little, that the sky has fallen. There are a lot of things that need to be fixed, but I think they're fixable."

The one attempting to fix them, though, is in the line of fire as the Bruins have lost four consecutive games for the first time since 1971.

Asked if he is looking forward to the end of the season, Donahue hesitated for a moment. "I would rather end the losing by winning than end the losing by the season being over," he said.

Bruin Notes

Coach Terry Donahue said he will use both Bret Johnson and Jim Bonds at quarterback against Oregon Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at the Rose Bowl. . . . Of Bonds, who completed seven of eight passes for 77 yards and the first touchdown of his UCLA career last Saturday against Stanford, Donahue said: "He came into the season with a real chance to be our starting quarterback and then things didn't work out. And now it's not working out for our team, so I think he should be given a chance." . . . Emmanuel Onwutuebe, a reserve nose tackle, cut his left arm last Thursday in an auto accident and probably won't play again this season.

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