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Star-Bulletin Sports

Monday, December 18, 2000

A L O H A / O A H U _ B O W L S

Aloha BowlOahu Bowl

For some
coaches, Aloha is

Georgia's Jim Donnan,
Virginia's George Welsh and
ASU's Bruce Snyder will
end careers in Hawaii


By Paul Arnett

You'll have to pardon Boston College head coach Tom O'Brien for feeling a little uneasy.

For the past 10 years, the Aloha Bowl has been an end for many coaching careers as they know them, but even by that liberal standard, this season's Christmas versions are a bit extreme.

Three of the main men -- Arizona State's Bruce Snyder, Georgia's Jim Donnan and Virginia's George Welsh -- are coaching their final games at their respective programs. It is a forced departure for Snyder and Donnan. For Welsh, who was stationed in Hawaii in the early 1960s, it was a last-second decision.

"I can't think of a more beautiful place to coach my final game," said Welsh, who is ending a 19-year run at Virginia. The 67-year-old was offered an extension, but turned it down.

"Without doubt, this has been the most difficult decision of my coaching career," Welsh said. "I admit I changed my mind on this many times, but it was clear to me that I should retire."

In a strange twist of coaching fate, O'Brien emerged as one of the possible candidates. He served as Welsh's offensive coordinator, before leaving Virginia in 1996 to take over at Boston College.

As strange as that scenario sounds, it's hard to top what current Minnesota head coach Glen Mason pulled while here with Kansas in 1995.

He announced he was leaving to take the job at Georgia, the one Donnan eventually won, then changed his mind to come back to Kansas, before leaving for Minnesota in 1997.

Kansas went on to pound UCLA by three touchdowns in what was Terry Donahue's final game. The Bruins' long-time head coach retired and is currently a college football analyst for CBS.

The first Christmas Day doubleheader in 1998 also produced some interesting developments. At the time, veteran Washington head coach Jim Lambright had no idea the Huskies' loss to the Air Force Academy in the first Oahu Bowl would be his curtain call.

While here preparing for the Oregon Ducks in the Aloha Bowl, Colorado head coach Rick Neuheisel worked out a deal where he would be the Huskies' new main man that coming season.

The coaching carousel for the Aloha Bowl really got its start in the 1991 game.

Stanford's Dennis Green and Georgia Tech's Bobby Ross ended their collegiate careers here 10 years ago, but not to join other old coaches and players in a broadcast booth.

Instead, Green became head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, a position he still holds today, and Ross took over as the field boss for the San Diego Chargers. He recently resigned as head coach for the Detroit Lions.

The 1996 Aloha Bowl between California and Navy produced some major changes as well. It was the final game for Paul Johnson as the Midshipmen's offensive coordinator. He left to become head coach at Georgia Southern.

Over the weekend, Johnson won his second straight Division I-AA national championship and became the first coach in more than 100 years to win 50 games in four seasons.

California's Steve Mariucci couldn't stop Johnson's option that day. He left the Golden Bears to become the San Francisco 49ers' head coach.

Snyder and Donnan can only hope their careers take an equally positive turn.

Arizona State was embarrassed by Wake Forest in last year's Aloha Bowl, a bitter taste Snyder would love to wash away against Boston College a week from today.

Donnan almost didn't get the chance to coach in his final game as a Georgia Bulldog. Some of the players said they wouldn't go to Hawaii if Donnan wasn't on the charter flight. He and Welsh bow out together this Sunday night.

If Donnan wins, he will be the first Georgia head coach to win four consecutive bowl games and it would mark only the second time in school history that the Bulldogs won eight games in four consecutive campaigns.

"This is a game we're looking forward to," Donnan said in a Friday conference call. "We want to go out as a team that won four straight bowl games."

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