Curious to know how often Donahue’s teams at least danced around the national-title picture, I looked at week-by-week AP poll data for all 20 years of his coaching tenure. For purposes of this exercise, I decided a team qualified as a national-title contender whenever it appeared in the top seven of an AP poll published November or later. These cutoffs were meant to identify those teams that, as a given season proceeded from the homestretch to the finish line, had a reasonable shot at finishing atop the rankings and winning the whole magilla.
In all, my research covered 124 weeks of AP polls, and over that period Donahue’s Bruin teams made only 15 appearances in the top seven. That is to say, he fielded a national-championship contender only 12% of the time. And for this he gets canonized? It’s not an awful performance record or anything (at least not until you get to Donahue’s last seven years of coaching, when his teams went a cool oh-for-43 in my poll survey), but if these were your program’s halcyon days, you might fairly feel a bit unsatisfied.
The Future Will Be Better Tomorrow
Mediocrity clings to Bruin football like it’s a chewed-up piece of gum we stepped on decades ago and have been too lazy to scrape off. Is our ambulation about to become any less sticky in the near future? It looks like it might. The latest recruiting class was excellent, and for the first time in 10 years the coaching staff seems to know what it’s doing. Los Angeles will always churn out plenty of quick-twitchy athletes who will be delighted to attend UCLA if given a half-decent reason. It shouldn’t be that hard to get on, say, an Alamo Bowl trajectory in the next couple years.
For now, though, the official Bru Velvet prediction is for six wins. Or maybe seven. I don’t like being pinned down.