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SPORTS WEEKEND | TV-RADIO

Donahue May Push Wrong Buttons

September 06, 1996|LARRY STEWART

Terry Donahue's free fall into his new broadcasting career continues Saturday.

It was bad enough that CBS, a few days after he coached his final game for UCLA in the Aloha Bowl on Christmas Day, asked Donahue to first work the Sun Bowl and then the biggest game of the year--No. 1 Nebraska against No. 2 Florida in the Fiesta Bowl.

Now this: In his regular-season debut, he'll critique the Bruins when they play second-ranked Tennessee before about 102,000 in Knoxville, Tenn. In the East, it's a prime-time national telecast.

How can Donahue win? If UCLA is losing badly, as expected, and he fails to criticize the Bruins, then he's too soft. If he does criticize the Bruins, UCLA supporters will question his loyalty. After all, he remains special assistant to Chancellor Charles Young.

Donahue is still learning such things as how to limit his comments to 10 seconds and which button to push when he wants to talk to his producer in the truck. Now he also has to worry about viewers in Los Angeles hanging on his every word.

"The hard part will be removing myself emotionally from the game," he said before departing for Knoxville. "I can't worry about offending anyone. All I can do is call the game as I see it, to be honest, to point out the good and bad. I don't know what else I can do."

The thing is, Donahue, above all else, wants to succeed as a broadcaster. He says this is not merely a stop-gap between coaching jobs.

"If I don't succeed, it won't be from lack of trying," he said.

He has sought out help and advice from everyone he can think of, including Dick Vermeil, whom he replaced as UCLA's coach in 1976.

He even sought help from a Trojan, Pat Haden.

"I told Terry about my early experiences and struggles," Haden said. "It was two years before the clouds opened up and I finally saw what it takes to do this job.

"I told him he's got to be insightful and informational in 10-second sound bites while throwing in a little humor. I told him that if he's serious about broadcasting--and I think he is--that he can't do what coaches tend to do when they first get into this business, and that is being afraid to offend other coaches."

Donahue warmed up for Saturday's big assignment by doing commentary on three San Diego Charger telecasts.

Dennis Kirkpatrick, the producer on those Charger telecasts, said, "I've never seen anyone prepare like Donahue did. With his work ethic, he's going to succeed if he's handled properly."

Said veteran Charlie Jones, Donahue's play-by-play announcer on his final Charger telecast: "If CBS will nurture his talent and work with him, he can become one of the best in the business."

*

Talking about tough debuts, Lisa Malosky got her feet wet, literally, working her first game as a football sideline reporter for Houston's Prime Sports network last Saturday. It was Missouri at Texas in a game in which wind, heavy rain and lightning caused a delay in the third quarter.

Malosky, 34, is the daughter of Jim Malosky, the football coach at Minnesota Duluth and the winningest coach in Division II football.

"Growing up in Duluth, I experienced a lot of bad weather, but never rain like that," Malosky said.

*

Good thing Channel 5 added tonight's Dodger game to its schedule, since it marks the return of Brett Butler. Butler will also be a guest on Fox's baseball pregame show at noon Saturday.

Still undecided is when the Dodgers' game in San Diego on Sept. 21 will be played. It's scheduled for 8 p.m. so that San Diego State can play its home game with Oklahoma at 12:30 and ABC can televise it.

Fox has asked the Padres to switch its game to 1 p.m. and isn't backing down. But insiders are saying San Diego State will win this one and that the Padre-Dodger game will stay where it is.

*

One of the classiest people in sports television was Bill MacPhail, the former CBS and CNN executive who died Wednesday at 76.

We had a longtime phone relationship but had never met face to face until a few years ago. I was sitting alone at a function when this nice gentleman came and sat down and immediately struck up a conversation merely to be polite. We talked for 10 minutes or so before introducing ourselves and laughing about the fact we knew each other.

My thought was, "Wow, here is this giant in the industry just making small talk with what he thought was a stranger."

TV-Radio Notes

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