Donahue Might Be Kicking Himself Blue for Passing Up Gold

It was only a couple of years ago that the Atlanta Falcons cranked up and offered a treasure to Terry Donahue of UCLA.

Atlanta wanted Donahue to coach its football team, proceeding at the time as if it wasn't coached at all.

We are talking very heavy bank notes, folks, like upward of half a million a year.

Other pro teams had invited Terry to dance. For instance, before he went out and put the gaff on Marv Levy, the owner of the Buffalo Bills had shown a serious interest in the UCLA coach.

So, it transpires, Donahue says "no" to Atlanta, as he had to others, explaining his roots were fastened in Westwood, where he had developed a large romance with the school and its boosters.

Your correspondent, the well-known agitator, asks him if the school and its boosters will return his love if he goes, say, 4-7, instead of taking the team to bowl games.

"Maybe you should have taken that pro money and left the state," he was told.

Terry shrugged.

"I guess time will tell whether I played it right," he answered.

Well, the Bruins established a record last year of 3-7-1. Followers groaned and blamed a multitude of circumstances.

Last Saturday, they opened the new season against Oklahoma and took a sizable pratfall.

And they looked bad in the process, leaving you to wonder if they will be noticeably better this year than last.

And if Donahue hits that inevitable down cycle, so indigenous to his line of work, will those in charge remain tolerant?

How will they respond if he reminds them he could have left and pulled down big cabbage at Atlanta?

On a newspaper on which we once worked, a baseball writer was informed he was being uncoupled.

"You can't do that," he protested. "I turned down the New York Times five years ago."

He was told, "You shouldn't have."

It is the meteorological history of the Los Angeles area that September is the hottest month. The atmosphere grows dense and generally miserable. Temperatures rise into the 90s, if not beyond 100, and, on weather reports, you hear that celebrated reminder, "Air in the basin today is unhealthful."

So a guy dropping in from the Tonga group asks idly:

"Why are they starting football games at 12:30 and one o'clock in the afternoon? Or why aren't early season games for Los Angeles teams booked on the road?"

For instance, at the Rose Bowl, where UCLA was engaging Oklahoma, temperatures on the field were soaring to 107. For football, that is cruel and inhuman.

That's about what temperatures run on the Saudi desert. The only difference is, forces there don't have an option, whereas one exists in football.

At the Coliseum, where the Raiders were matched against Denver, temperatures rose as high as 105.

You would see Howie Long stagger to the sideline, requiring an oxygen mask. A doctor took his blood pressure.

And, soon afterward, John Elway would repair to the pits, so wholly drained he was almost ill to his stomach.

Is it football they are trying to play in September around here, or is it some kind of survival contest?

Fans were exposed to gross discomfort because television contracts wouldn't permit a change to, say, 5 p.m. kickoffs when forecasts called for this unbearable heat.

If it usually happens that NFL schedule-makers try to avoid late-season games in Buffalo, for reasons that needn't be explained, why, on Sept. 9, would they arrange a game in Los Angeles at 1 p.m.?

Players would prefer Buffalo in December to Los Angeles in September. The air in Buffalo could kill you, but it is never described as unhealthful.

For their season opener with Denver, the Raiders drew a crowd of 54,000--surprisingly good--and, more important, it was a surprisingly enthusiastic crowd, casting its lot with the home side through a large part of the match.

When the offense produced no points, the fans supported the defense, which would come up with the two touchdowns that beat the Broncos, 14-9.

A crowd of 54,000 is a sellout in Oakland, but is rated an undersized perch you would throw back in the palmy days of pro football in Los Angeles, where the Rams once set a league record for a season with an 83,000 average.

At Denver, where capacity runs roughly 74,000, the Broncos now have sold out for 20 years.

The waiting list for tickets has grown to 13,000 and, the way genii of the box office figure, each customer buys an average of three tickets (meaning some buy two, others four).

So Denver calculates it could draw almost 40,000 more to each home game if it had room.

Then Denver has another major advantage over the Raiders: namely, 60 luxury suites, selling at an average price of $85,000 a year.

This means Denver opens each season with $5 million more in the kick than Los Angeles.

Every team in the AFC West has luxury boxes except the Raiders, a deficiency the club is attempting to rectify.

When, in a jump-off of sorts, that kind of loot goes into the air each year--and keeps escaping the Raiders--they get depressed and come to feel the least the Kuwaitis can do is finance this shortage.

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