Don James, one of the most beloved figures in the proud history of University of Washington football, died Sunday morning after a battle with pancreatic cancer, UW announced.
He was 80 years old.
James set the standard for success for the program as the Huskies’ coach from 1975 to 1992. He remains the Huskies’ winningest head coach in the program’s 128-year history, with a 153-57-2 overall record in 18 seasons.
James orchestrated the Huskies’ perfect season in 1991, culminating in a 34-14 victory over Michigan in the Rose Bowl that gave UW a 12-0 record and a share of the national championship with Miami.
A disciplinarian with an acute attention to detail, James was affectionately nicknamed “The Dawgfather.” He was respected and feared by his players and opponents alike. Former players and colleagues describe him as a tough, humble man who was revered throughout college football as one of the game’s best coaches.
He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1997, four years after retiring in protest of what he believed were unjust sanctions handed down by the Pacific-10 Conference against the UW program.
The Huskies’ accomplishments on the football field are now judged on the glory days of the Don James Era.
James led UW to 15 bowl games in 18 years, winning 10 of them, including four Rose Bowls. He retired in 1993 as the most successful coach in the then-Pacific-10 Conference, with 97 victories, 38 losses and two ties.
“We’ll honor him every way we can,” current UW coach Steve Sarkisian said. “But the best thing we can do is embody the characteristics that he possesses, and that’s our toughness, mental and physical toughness, and then play a brand of football that he instilled here for decades. “
In a 1982 interview, James described his approach in recruiting players to Washington: “The players we go after are all one kind,” he said. “They are good hitters who are also good people.”
For more, read our news story here. Much more reaction to come.