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Viewpoint / Letters : Year After Year, Donahue Does It the Hard Way

October 11, 1986

Terry Donahue continues to fascinate, but more as a personality than a coach. In a profession known for attracting high-pressure, one-dimensional mono-maniacs, Donahue, week after week, year after year, becomes curiouser and curiouser. Indeed, he begins to look as out of place in the coaching fraternity as William Buckley at a Tupperware party.

If ever a coach nursed the seeds of his own misery more lovingly or stubbornly, then I can't recall him. The man has been sitting on a recruiting gold mine for years, up to his armpits in talent, yet he reserves his greatest respect for undertalented, "scrappy" style players.

A colossal talent like Eric Ball sends him into spasms of silence, whereas a "four-yard Freddie" like James Primus elicits clouds of praise. He will inevitably favor a Ramsey over a Schroeder, a Carney over a Dokie Williams, a less talented fifth-year senior who has patiently waited his turn over Superman himself, and he will nearly always have his heart broken because of it.

Whether this taste for the ordinary is a simple reflection of a man who admires players resembling himself at 20 only Terry knows. Probably, like his defensive philosophy, it's just a logical extension of a man who always plays it safe.

The greatest coaches, the ones who compete for and win national championships, have always had the good sense to ride the talents of their greatest players. John McKay's use of O.J. Simpson and Lynn Swann are obvious examples. I like to think of this style as the easy way. And as a normally compassionate guy, I'd like to suggest it to Terry. It's the no-ulcers way to play football.

CHARLES CHICCOA

Los Angeles

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