Another football season begins at UCLA with the start of practice today, and Coach Terry Donahue is in an unaccustomed position.
His team is coming off two losing seasons after winning bowl games in seven consecutive seasons, an unprecedented accomplishment for a college coach.
In the past, it was taken for granted that the Bruins would at least be a contender for the Pacific 10 championship, if not a factor in the national rankings. From year to year, it was simply a matter of fine-tuning.
Now entering his 16th season as UCLA's coach, Donahue is trying to restore his team to the upper echelon of the conference. That is an unusual priority for Donahue, and he acknowledged it when he said Friday: "It's very difficult and very strange.
"Is there pressure? Absolutely," Donahue said. "Is there more pressure than I've ever felt at UCLA? No.
"When you've enjoyed as much success as we've enjoyed and been blessed with as many good teams and players as I've been blessed with, you put an awful lot of pressure on yourself.
"No one, whatever the business, likes to be at a certain level of success and (then) take a step backward and be at a much lower level.
"I put a lot of pressure on myself and my coaches and players because they don't like that situation, either.
"It's important in coaching, number one, to have a real good contract, and I have that at UCLA through the choice of our administration. And the other thing that is real important is to have a good administration, and I have that at UCLA.
"So you need those two things, so that when you fall on bad times, you can weather it and come back and be successful again.
"I'm going to work as hard as I can humanly work and keep myself strong mentally as well as physically. I'm going to work my head off to try to get this football program back."
After a 3-7-1 record in 1989, the Bruins improved to 5-6 in 1990, including an upset victory over Rose Bowl-bound Washington. Donahue is cautiously optimistic that his team will make greater strides this season.
The Bruins have 14 returning starting players, seven each on offense and defense. They also have one of the nation's most highly regarded quarterbacks, Tommy Maddox, who set Pac-10 freshman records for passing yardage and total offense last season.
UCLA will open the season Sept. 7 at the Rose Bowl against Brigham Young and quarterback Ty Detmer, the Heisman Trophy winner last season. . . . The Bruins will practice twice a day until Aug. 27. . . . Coach Terry Donahue said junior linebacker Meech Shaw, who missed spring practice, is academically ineligible and will try to make up his grades to re-enroll at UCLA or another school. . . . Quarterback Tommy Maddox said he spent the summer at UCLA, working in the marketing division of the athletic department. He also found time to throw some passes to UCLA's receivers in casual workouts.