Certainly, Donahue knows a few things about the Bruins, and he knows firsthand about quarterback Cade McNown's competitiveness.
Donahue, who recruited McNown and coached him his freshman year, vividly remembers what happened after McNown threw an interception against USC in the 1995 game.
"He came off the field and Bob [Toledo, then the offensive coordinator] was yelling at him for not throwing the ball away," Donahue said. "I just walked over to listen in but I guess I looked like I was thinking about pulling him. The next thing I know, Cade grabs my head with both hands, starts shaking it and says, 'I can get this done!' "
Donahue enjoys telling the story, and if his wife, Andrea, is with him he'll use her head to demonstrate, which doesn't go over real big with Andrea.
Anyway, McNown got the job done and UCLA won, 24-20.
Donahue, then in his 20th season as UCLA's coach before retiring as the winningest coach in Pacific 10 history, is now in his third year of broadcasting and things are good for both Donahue and the Bruins. Well, at least they were before Thursday's cancellation.
UCLA is one of the top college football teams in the country, and Donahue is one of the top college football commentators. He's the No. 1 guy at CBS and he and the network are negotiating a new deal.
Things have also been going well for Donahue in other areas. He and former UCLA teammate Tor Matheson have a successful Pebble Beach credit reporting business, Credit Interlink; he and Andrea recently moved into a new beachfront home on Newport Beach's Balboa Island, and his three daughters are all doing well.
Nicole, 26, is a second-grade teacher and she and husband Tayt Ianni, former captain of the UCLA soccer team, also live on Balboa Island; Michele, 23, a recent UCLA graduate, is working for former Trojan Rodney Peete's event management company, and Jennifer, 19, is a sophomore at UCLA.
With all these positives in his life, does Donahue miss coaching?
"Parts of it, yes," he said. "You miss the relationships with the players and coaches, you miss being in on the action. After 29 years in coaching [counting jobs at UCLA and Kansas as an assistant], it's impossible to leave it and not miss parts of it."
Donahue almost went back to coaching earlier this year, then turned down an offer from Dallas Cowboy owner Jerry Jones.
Donahue was so close to taking the job that the Cowboys had sent plane tickets to his family so they could join him at a news conference announcing him as the new coach.
Does Donahue regret it not working out?
"There are always regrets when something you go after doesn't work out," he said. "It just wasn't the right fit. Jerry and his son, Stephen [the Cowboys' vice president and director of personnel], wanted someone to come in and fix the offense. They didn't want someone to hire assistant coaches, build the defense and stuff like that. They just wanted someone to fix the offense."
The salary offer wasn't very good either. A source involved in the negotiations said the first offer was $550,000 and it grew to $700,000. Either figure would have made Donahue the lowest-paid coach in the NFL.
And get this--Jones wanted to put in the contract a stipulation that Donahue would owe a $25,000 fine every time he did something that Jones deemed as insubordination. In other words, Donahue could have ended up owing Jones money.
Donahue was back on the UCLA campus this week, spending all day there Wednesday. But he wasn't there for football practice. He talked to the coaches on the phone. He was there because he is still involved with the school, just not the athletic department.
He is on UCLA's Children's Hospital board and also a member of UCLA's Campaign Cabinet, which plans to raise $1.2 billion over the next seven years.
"I'm seeing parts of UCLA I've never seen before," he said. "UCLA is the love of my life, and always will be, besides my wife and family."
If the USC-Florida State game is played, it will be regionally televised by ABC at 12:30 p.m., with Keith Jackson, Bob Griese and sideline reporter Lynn Swann. . . . Former USC radio announcers Larry Kahn and Mike Lamb have recruited John Robinson to join them as a commentator on a national radio package they are putting together. The package already includes the USC-UCLA game Nov. 21. Kahn and Lamb bought the national rights from UCLA. . . . Lee Klein did a nice job filling in for XTRA 1150's Joe McDonnell, who upon returning from dental surgery Thursday was reunited with Doug Krikorian. Yes, "McDonnell-Douglas" may be making a comeback.
An innovation that makes its debut on ESPN's "Sunday Night Football" this weekend will be the use of a yellow line to show the exact point where a team needs to reach for a first down. . . . With Tom Kelly in Tallahassee, Fla., Rich Marotta will do the blow-by-blow and David Bon Tempo the commentary on Channel 9's Caesar's Tahoe boxing card featuring Marco Antonio Barrera against Pedro Javier Torres Saturday night. . . . Saturday night's prep showdown between Mater Dei of Santa Ana and De La Salle of Concord is being tape-delayed for showing Sunday on Fox Sports West 2 at Mater Dei's request. KPLS 830 offers live radio coverage. . . . KFWB's Dan Avey is recuperating from recent heart surgery. . . . Channel 2 will tape Saturday's Jim Murray tribute and show it Sunday afternoon, between 3-3:30.
Jim Rome was all over the "Hollywood Squares" people this week for showing taped shows with Florence Griffith Joyner. He might have been right, but is Rome, of all people, now setting broadcasting standards? Please.
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What Los Angeles Is Watching
A sampling of L.A. Nielsen ratings for Sept. 19-20, including sports on cable networks:
Over-the-air Channel Rating Share Baseball: Seattle at Angels 9 3.9 7 Baseball: Dodgers at Cincinnati 11 2.9 8 College football: Florida at Tennessee 2 3.4 7 College football: BYU at Washington 7 2.4 7 College football: Penn State at Pittsburgh 2 1.7 5 Golf: LPGA Solheim Cup 1.6 4
Cable Network Rating Share College football: Oregon State at USC FSW2 2.2 4 College football: UCLA at Houston FX 1.8 5 College football: Central Florida at Purdue ESPN 1.9 5 Boxing: Evander Holyfield vs. Vaughn Bean SHO 1.8 5 Baseball: St. Louis at Milwaukee FX 0.8 2 College football: Virginia Tech at Miami ESPN 0.7 2 College football: Iowa at Arizona ESPN 0.5 1 Horse racing: Woodward Stakes, Ruffian 'Cap ESPN2 0.5 1 Baseball: Cincinnati at Chicago Cubs WGN 0.4 1 College football: North Carolina at Stanford FSW 0.4 1 College football: Louisville at Illinois ESPN2 0.4 1
Over-the-air Channel Rating Share Pro football: Denver at Oakland 4 13.2 30 Pro football: Green Bay at Cincinnati 11 7.4 18 Pro football: San Diego at Kansas City 2 6.7 16 Baseball: Dodgers at San Francisco 5 2.7 6 Golf: LPGA Solheim Cup 4 1.6 4 Soccer: San Jose at Galaxy 34 1.6 4 Auto racing: IRL Lone Star 200 7 1.1 3
Cable Network Rating Share Pro football: Philadelphia at Arizona ESPN 5.9 11 Baseball: Cincinnati at Chicago Cubs ESPN 1.1 3 Hockey: Exhibition, Colorado vs. Kings FSW 1.0 2 Auto racing: NASCAR Winston Cup 400 TNN 0.6 2 Baseball: Cincinnati at Chicago Cubs WGN 0.5 1 Drag racing: NHRA Keystone Nationals TNN 0.5 1 Soccer: Women's U.S. Cup, Brazil vs. U.S. ESPN2 0.3 1
WEEKDAY RATINGS: Monday--Pro football, Dallas at New York Giants, Ch. 7, 14.1, 23. Tuesday--Baseball, Texas at Angels, FSW, 3.3, 5.
Note: Each rating point represents 50,092 L.A. households. Cable ratings reflect the entire market, even though cable is in only 63% of L.A. households.