UCLA football Coach Terry Donahue said Wednesday that he hadn't made up his mind whether to accept an offer to become coach of the Atlanta Falcons but that he would have a decision by Friday morning at the latest.
Donahue, a former Bruin player who has coached at UCLA for 16 years, the last 11 as head coach, has been offered a five-year contract by the National Football League team.
"I'm just in the process of making a decision whether I want to stay at an academically excellent school like UCLA or get involved with pro football," Donahue said.
"I need a day or so to get my head screwed on," he said. "I can honestly say I haven't made a decision yet, but I'm going to decide by Friday morning--at least by Friday morning."
Donahue met again early Wednesday with Falcon President Rankin Smith Jr. and Executive Vice President Taylor Smith before the Falcon officials took a plane back to Atlanta in the early afternoon.
Donahue said he was being advised in his negotiations by Los Angeles agent Marvin Demoff.
Donahue also met with university officials Wednesday to discuss the situation. He had a two-hour meeting with UCLA Chancellor Charles E. Young, Vice Chancellor Elwin Svenson and Athletic Director Peter T. Dalis.
"He told us he was facing a professional and personal dilemma--whether to continue in college or to go into the professional ranks," Dalis said. "We listened. It was more of an information session than anything else."
Dalis said that if UCLA wanted to increase Donahue's salary package to entice him to stay at the university, such an offer could be made only by Young.
"We did discuss that briefly, and we told (Donahue) there were some things we could do, but they would be very minor since we are a state school," Dalis said.
Donahue has a five-year UCLA contract that is automatically renewed every year. It is reported to be worth between $200,000 to $250,000 a year.
The five-year deal with the Falcons is believed to total $3 million, although some estimates have run as high as $5 million.
Donahue, who indicated that whatever decision is arrived at will be made by his entire family, said money was not the primary issue.
"The financial deal, the money thing has been exaggerated from the reports I've seen," he said. "(Money) is just not as big a deal as where I want to coach."
Dalis said he had no indication that Donahue is unhappy at UCLA and isn't yet sure that Donahue is on his way out.
"My gut feeling is that he'll stay," Dalis said. "But Ced Dempsey (the University of Arizona's athletic director) told me the same thing about Larry Smith."
Smith is the new football coach at USC.