UCLA football Coach Terry Donahue said Monday that he has no plans for becoming the next football coach at Arizona State. He said it over and over again. And still he sensed doubt.
"I know what you're thinking about," Donahue said. "OK, how can I convince you?"
Everyone was thinking, of course, about the way Darryl Rogers had left Arizona State Feb. 6 to create the vacancy in the first place.
The Detroit Lions announced that Rogers was leaving ASU to become their coach the morning after he had flatly denied that possibility to reporters. Rogers had also assured his athletic director that he was not going anywhere.
And now Donahue, who has just completed the second year of a five-year contract, is going through the same denial process in answer to reports out of Phoenix that "there is interest on both sides" and that "the money is there and the only hangup is the multi-year contract."
Under Arizona law, coaches at state schools can be given only one-year contracts.
On the other hand, Arizona State has always been known for paying its coaches well, even if the contracts are for just one year at a time. According to the Arizona Republic, the Sun Angel Foundation (a booster group) was prepared to add $100,000 to the new coach's contract, making it worth around $250,000 including revenue from a television show.
That's a lot of money to turn down.
"In the first place, I didn't even hear those figures until I got to my office this morning and my secretary read them out of the newspaper to me," Donahue said. "I think those figures might be real inflated. I don't know. My discussions with Arizona State did not get that deep.
"People are assuming that these discussions have been going on for a long time and they just leaked out yesterday. That's not the case. I talked with Dick Tamburo (ASU athletic director) Sunday.
"It just came up very suddenly, I talked with them, and then I issued a statement saying that I was not taking the job. It's as simple as that."
Donahue issued this statement through his sports information office: "I am not now nor do I intend to be a candidate for the job at Arizona State. The school contacted Pete Dalis for permission to discuss the job with me, but I plan on coaching here in the future."
Dalis, who was quoted Sunday night as saying that UCLA was planning to improve Donahue's contract, said that, indeed, he was working on a new contract for Donahue, but he corrected any impression that the new contract talks were in response to the Arizona State interest.
"I've been talking with Terry on developing a new contract since last fall," Dalis said. "We were hindered by the Fiesta Bowl and recruiting or we would have had it completed by now."
Dalis said that he fully expects Donahue to be coaching at UCLA next season. He cited, primarily, Donahue's loyalty to the school, saying: "He's Blue and Gold just like I am." As for any chance that he was being handled the way ASU Athletic Director Dick Tamburo was handled a few weeks ago, Dalis said: "Don't think that for a minute. That's not like Terry."
Donahue had loyalty to his alma mater high on his list of why he wanted to stay at UCLA. He also mentioned family ties in California and the fact that he is not, by nature, a mover. The only other school that appears on his resume is Kansas, where he was an assistant coach briefly before returning to UCLA.
Donahue stressed the program that he has built in his nine years as the Bruin coach. "This has been years in the making, " Donahue said. "I don't want to turn it over to someone else right now. I'm proud of it. I think we've built a good foundation. We've just had another good recruiting class. You know, all of the players who are here are players I have recruited. I like these players. I like what we're doing here."
And Donahue is just two games away from becoming the all-time winningest coach at his alma mater. The record set by Bill Spaulding is 72 victories. Donahue's record is 71-29-5.