IRVING, Texas (October 21, 2013) – The National Football Foundation (NFF) released the following statement today on the passing of coach Don James, a 1997 College Football Hall of Fame inductee from Kent State and Washington. James died Oct. 20. He was 80. After his induction, James served with distinction on the NFF Honors Court for many years, helping with the selection of subsequent inductees.
“Don James’ impact will reverberate through the college football landscape for many years to come,” said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. “He became one of the most respected and knowledgeable people to ever set foot on a college gridiron, and countless players and coaches benefited immensely from having him as their mentor. His coaching tree ranks among the most extensive in history, and he will be deeply missed.
“I was the manager and scout team quarterback when he was the defensive coordinator at Colorado,” Hatchell added. “He was a really fine man and a terrific coach. The players loved him and we remained friends for 40 years. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends. We lost a legend this weekend, but his legacy will endure for many, many years to come.”
Born Dec. 31, 1932, James lettered in four sports (football, basketball, baseball, and track) at Massillon Washington High School in Ohio. He then headed to the University of Miami (Fla.), playing quarterback for the Hurricanes from 1952-53. He set multiple UM records, graduating with honors in 1954.
Here the served in the Army from 1954-56, achieving the rank of second lieutenant. The start of his coaching career included working as an assistant at Kansas (1956-57), Florida State (1959-65), Michigan (1966-67), and Colorado (1968-70). For one year, 1958, he was head coach at Southwest High School in Miami, Florida.
James landed his first head job at Kent State, leading the Golden Flashes from 1971-74 with a 25-19-1 record. His 1972 team won the Mid-American Conference championship, giving the Flashes just their second bowl appearance (Tangerine) in school history and James MAC Coach of the Year honors.
Following Kent State, James moved to Washington for an 18-year stint as head coach from 1975-92. He became the Huskies’ winningest coach in history, amassing a 153-58-2 record and the nickname of Dawgfather. Washington earned bowl invitations for 14 of his last 16 seasons, including six Rose Bowls. His bowl record in that time was 10-4. His teams finished first six times and second four times in the Pac-10, and he set a conference record for most games won. In 1991, the Huskies went 12-0, claiming a share of the national title and defeating Michigan 34-14 in the Rose Bowl.
For his career, he went 178-77-3, or an astounding percentage of .698, as a head coach. James was named Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association in 1977 and the Football Writers Association in 1991. His coaching philosophy emphasized defense, teamed with a disciplined offense. At the time of his retirement in 1993, his 10 bowl victories were the fourth-most in major college football history, behind only Hall of Fame coaches Paul “Bear” Bryant, Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden.
James was inducted into the University of Miami Athletic Hall of Fame in 1992, the Husky Hall of Fame in 1994 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1997. Upon his retirement, the Tyee Center in Husky Stadium, at the time the stadium’s only premium seating area, was renamed the Don James Center.
James’ coaching tree includes Nick Saban, Jim Mora (Jr. and Sr.), Gary Pinkel, Dom Capers and many more. James is survived by his wife, Carol, who he married in August of 1952, three children and 10 grandchildren.