Donahue Nears Day of Decision : College football: UCLA coach promises he will make up his mind in the next two or three days on a possible move to CBS.


Terry Donahue, torn between a desire to remain the football coach at UCLA and the opportunity to become CBS' top college-football commentator, has promised all parties he'll make a final decision in the next two to three days.

The 51-year-old Donahue, completing his 20th season with the Bruins, is extremely interested in CBS' offer to team him with play-by-play announcer Jim Nantz as its top announcing team when the network returns to college football next season after a five-year absence.

But Donahue has also been touched by an outpouring of emotion from those connected to the UCLA program, supporters imploring him to stay. Included in that group are members of his own family.

Donahue had intended staying at least a few more years until the CBS offer surfaced. But he knows that if he does want to go into broadcasting, this may be his only opportunity to start at the top.

If Donahue does decide to go, he would make his network debut in the Dec. 29 Sun Bowl at El Paso.

That would serve as his practice game, before his appearance in the most high-profile bowl in this year's lineup, the Fiesta Bowl on New Year's Day that will pit Nebraska against Florida for the national championship.

Next season, Donahue would work on Big East and Southeastern Conference games.

If UCLA Athletic Director Peter Dalis can scrape together the resources, he could try to sweeten Donahue's contract, which has three years to run at an annual salary of $367,000. But sources close to Donahue insist that wouldn't sway him, that this is not about money.

Earlier this week, it appeared Donahue had made the decision to leave, but he has found it more difficult than he imagined to walk away from the job that has been his life's work.

He has been this close before. He nearly took the coaching job with the Atlanta Falcons in the 1980s, but changed his mind at the last minute.

And last season, he was ready to take the coaching job with the Rams until he found out he would have to move to St. Louis.

In his latest quandary, Donahue has been pressured by both sides. Originally, he had promised to announce his plans before boarding a plane Dec. 19 for the team's trip to Hawaii, where the Bruins will face Kansas in the Aloha Bowl on Christmas Day.

But CBS said it would like to start promoting its broadcasting team as soon as possible, and UCLA did not like trying to convince potential recruits to commit to a football program without knowing who would be running it.

So Donahue agreed to speed his deliberations.

He has leaned heavily on Dick Vermeil in recent weeks while contemplating his future.

And that makes sense.

Vermeil followed a similar path in his own career. He was UCLA's coach before Donahue, then went to the Philadelphia Eagles before making a successful transition to the broadcast booth.

Times staff writer Larry Stewart contributed to this story.

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