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Former Washington Football Coach Don James, ‘Dawgfather,’ Dies

Former Washington Football Coach Don James, ‘Dawgfather,’ Dies
Head coach Don James of the Washington Huskies looks on during a game in December of 1989. Source: Bernstein Associates/Getty Images

Don James, who guided the University of Washington’s football team to a share of the 1991 national championship during his 18-year coaching tenure, died from the effects of pancreatic cancer. He was 80.

James, known as the “Dawgfather” to Husky football fans, passed away yesterday at his home, the school said in an e-mailed statement. James was Washington’s coach from 1975 through 1992, compiling a 153-58-2 record, won five Pacific-10 conference titles and went to 15 postseason bowl games.

“My family and I are extremely saddened to hear of coach James’s passing,” current Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said. “His accomplishments as a football coach stand alone, but what made him truly special is the quality of man he was away from the game. The guidance and leadership he instilled into this program and community are still felt today, and will continue to be felt here for a long, long time.”

When James retired in 1993, his 10 bowl victories ranked fourth in college football history behind Paul “Bear” Bryant, Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden.

The Huskies in 1991 went 12-0 and defeated Michigan in the Rose Bowl to win a share of the national title, finishing first in the coaches’ poll.

Born on Dec. 31, 1932, in Massillon, Ohio, James played quarterback at the University of Miami and in 1952 set school records for completions, attempts and yards in a season. After stints as an assistant coach at Florida State, Michigan and Colorado, James was named head coach at Kent State in 1971, compiling a 25-19-1 record over his four seasons. He was hired as Washington’s coach prior to the 1975 season.

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