Don James, Huskies Football Coach Dies at 80, Memorial Scheduled for Sunday


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Sunday was a somber day for die-hard Washington Huskies fans. Legendary Huskies football coach, Don James, died of pancreatic cancer. According to, James passed in the comfort of his own home. He was 80 years of age. The Ohio native lived and breathed football with an fulfilling athletic career that lasted nearly 50 years. James played 2 years of professional football as a quarterback and defensive back. However, his football glory came from his long-standing coaching career.

In 1956, James took his first coaching job in Kansas, GA. He went on to coach at Southwest Miami High School in Florida, Florida State, Michigan, Colorado, and Kent State, before taking on his most notable coaching position as the head coach of the University of Washington Huskies.

James, who was commonly referred to as the “The Dawgfather” on campus, built a stellar career that led to his induction in the College Hall of Fame. James transformed the University of Washington football team into a championship-winning powerhouse. He arrived on campus in the fall of 1975, and his tenure lasted for a total of 17 years. Throughout his 17-year tenure, James led the team to six conference titles. In 1997, James was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. He retired with an overall head coaching record of 178-76-3.

Coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Rolltide shared his reaction to the loss and issued a statement of condolence, paying his respects to James. Saban learned under the tutelage of James' coaching, so he definitely had a lot to say in reference to the famed coach.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Coach James' family. He was a special man and meant the world to me. There aren't enough words to describe not only the great coach he was, but how much he cared for people and the positive impact he made in the lives of everyone he came in contact with.

Coach James was my mentor and probably did more than anybody to influence me in this profession. Like I've said before, I didn't plan on going into coaching. He saw something in me and asked me to stay on at Kent State as a graduate assistant after my playing career was over. I really enjoyed it, got hired full time and went on from there.

From an organizational standpoint, our program today is run much like he ran his program. He was very organized, efficient, and did an outstanding job of defining expectations for players, coaches and everyone in the organization.

He was always personal and inspirational to players and people around him. He wanted you to reach your full potential as a football player, but more importantly, he wanted you to do well in school and become the best person you could be so you would be successful in life. He was the same way when it came to assistant coaches or anyone who worked for him, you were a better person because of the time you spent with Coach James.”

James will be honored during a special memorial service by the Huskies prior to the 8:00pm kickoff on Saturday. According to the Seattle Times, a public vigil in James' honor is also scheduled for Sunday afternoon at 3:00pm at the Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle, Washington. However, further information regarding the specific details of the memorial have yet to be released.

The official Twitter page for the Huskies Athletics' department will be posting frequent updates with further information regarding James' memorial and funeral arrangements.


Image via Twitter | University of Washington Athletics