Bright Light of Small Screen Drew Donahue Like a Moth

On Christmas Day, Terry Donahue will be coaching his final game for UCLA.

Four days later, he'll be working as a commentator at the Sun Bowl for CBS. Then, on Jan. 2, it's the big one, the Fiesta Bowl.

A television career isn't something that only recently popped into Donahue's mind.

The seed was planted 10 years ago.

In December of 1985, as he was preparing his Bruins to play Iowa in the Rose Bowl, he got a call from Lorimar Productions, which was televising that year's Holiday Bowl game between Arizona State and Arkansas.

Lou Holtz, scheduled to work as the commentator on a crew that included play-by-play announcer Tom Hammond and sideline reporter Geoff Witcher, had to back out at the last minute, and Lorimar needed a replacement.

"It wasn't bad money for one day's work, $500 or something like that, and we had a break in practice that allowed me to do it," Donahue said.

He drove to San Diego the night before the game, had dinner with Hammond and the producer, got a quick lesson in broadcasting, met with the coaches the next day and did the game that night.

"I guess I did OK," he said. "After that, a few people--Donnie Duncan, the athletic director at Oklahoma, was one of them--told me I should consider getting into television. At the time, I certainly wasn't thinking about leaving UCLA, but, yeah, ever since then, I've thought about television work as a possibility."

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The television possibility edged closer to reality last spring, when Donahue was put in touch with Bob Rosen, a New York sports-broadcast agent, by attorney David Kahn, a former Daily Bruin sports editor and Times sportswriter who now works for the Indiana Pacers.

Rosen got Donahue together with Rick Gentile, CBS senior vice president in charge of production.

The result was a three-year contract for Donahue that will pay him around $250,000 a year. That's far less than the $367,000 a year he made at UCLA, but there's also less work.

That's not to say Donahue isn't going to work at his new career.

"I know I have a lot to learn, and I know it's going to take a lot of work if I want to do well," he said. "And I want to do well."

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Rosen said he was impressed with Donahue and that since seeing a tape of that 1985 Holiday Bowl, he is convinced Donahue has a future in television.

"I thought he was fantastic," Rosen said.

We also watched a tape of that game, and the word fantastic was not the first that sprang to mind. But Donahue, for a first effort, wasn't bad. Certainly, he didn't embarrass himself.

He didn't talk too much or talk over his play-by-play man, kept cliches to a minimum, sounded like a football coach only a small part of the time and made some good points.

It helped that the game was a dramatic one, with Arkansas winning on a late field goal, 18-17.

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Mr. Baseball: Move over Tom Lasorda, baseball has another ambassador.

Cal Ripken Jr., in the Los Angeles area working as a consultant on a movie, "The Fan," took time out the other day to film some baseball promos for Fox in a residential area of Santa Monica.

"Baseball is such a great game, I'll do whatever I can to promote the game," said Ripken, who was not paid for the promos. "And I think it's great that Fox is now involved. The game is going to get the national exposure it deserves, and I think what Fox is doing to reach kids is so important."

On the 18 Saturdays that Fox will televise baseball, beginning June 1, there will be a half-hour pre-, pregame show designed for children.

Tracy Dolgin, Fox's marketing chief, says, "Baseball is known as America's pastime. We want to make it America's present-time."

TV-Radio Notes

Because Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday this year, ESPN will have a Saturday night NFL game, New England at Indianapolis. . . . NBC pulled a last-minute switch (as it did last week) and will show Pittsburgh at Green Bay instead of Seattle at Kansas City as the early game on Sunday. . . . NBC's late game Sunday is Denver at Oakland. . . . The Raiders have invited Marisa Chandler, a freshman at Harvard and the daughter of Bob Chandler, the former Raider radio commentator who died of cancer last January, to sing the national anthem Sunday, and hopefully NBC will show it. She was tremendous when she sang the anthem at a Raider-New Orleans game at the Coliseum last season.

Another Johnny Miller? Ben Crenshaw recently tried his hand at announcing golf and did very well, working with Jack Whitaker on a taped "Shell's Wonderful World of Golf" show that will be shown on ABC Sunday at 1 p.m. On this show, Paul Azinger plays Seve Ballesteros at the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland. . . . ESPN's "Scholastic Sports America" show, which focuses on high school sports, celebrates its 10-year anniversary with a one-hour special Sunday at 2 p.m. . . . The Mike Tyson-Buster Mathis fight last Saturday night got a 16.1 rating, the network's highest nighttime rating. Fox's next boxing show is scheduled for Jan. 27, the night before the Super Bowl.

Kim Celentano, a producer for Prime Sports' "Press Box," and reporter Maura Driscoll set out in mid-November to do a feature on the U.S. softball team, since softball will be an official sport at the 1996 Summer Olympics. What they uncovered--and turned into a three-part series that was shown this week--was corruption within the Amateur Softball Assn., including misappropriation of grant money provided by the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Prime Sports has been a big supporter of Special Olympics, and Dick Van Kirk, the executive director of the Southern California Special Olympics, recently announced that Pat McClenahan, Prime's head of programming, has been named to the board of directors. McClenahan's 8-year-old daughter, Kelly, has multiple sclerosis. . . . Hollywood producer Gary Marshall, a Northwestern graduate, will be a guest on Irv Kaze's KIEV show tonight at 6:15 p.m. Kaze's guests next Friday will be ABC's Keith Jackson and Fox's Howie Long. . . . Recommended viewing: The next edition of HBO's "Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel" Tuesday at 10 p.m. looks at Georgetown's John Thompson, Seattle receiver Brian Blades, who is charged with manslaughter in the shooting of his cousin, and the problem of sports agents and college athletes.

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