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Don James dies at 80: former University of Washington football coach

Don James, former University of Washington football coach, dies at 80 from pancreatic cancer. He led the Huskies to a perfect season in 1991.

Don James, the former University of Washington football coach, passed away at the age of 80 from pancreatic cancer. He had been undergoing treatment for the disease since late September. James, who coached the Huskies from 1975 to 1992, holds the record for the most wins by a coach in the school's 128-year football history.

In 1993, James left the University of Washington in protest of what he believed were unfair sanctions imposed by the Pacific-10 conference. These penalties, which included a two-year ban on post-season bowl games, were a response to alleged improper loans and compensation given to athletes by team boosters. Just two weeks before the start of the 1993 football season, James submitted his resignation letter, stating, "I have decided I can no longer coach in a conference that treats its players and coaches so unfairly."

Before coaching at the University of Washington, James was the head coach at Kent State University in Ohio. However, it was during his time at the University of Washington that he achieved his greatest success. In 1991, he led the Huskies to a perfect 12-0 season, culminating in a victory over Michigan in the Rose Bowl. The Associated Press media poll awarded the national championship to the University of Miami, James' alma mater, while the coaches voted in favor of Washington in their poll.

Current Washington Coach Steve Sarkisian praised James not only for his coaching accomplishments but also for his character. "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," Sarkisian said.

After resigning, James remained involved with the team, attending practices and serving on a committee that helped redesign Husky Stadium. He also delivered an annual preseason speech to the football squad. Born on December 31, 1932, in Massillon, Ohio, James was the son of a bricklayer. He was a standout football player in high school and received a scholarship to Miami University, where he set five passing records before graduating in 1954. After serving in the Army, he earned a master's degree in education from the University of Kansas in 1957.

James held coaching positions at Florida State, Michigan, and Colorado before becoming the head coach at Kent State in 1971. In Seattle, he revitalized the Huskies football program, taking them from a struggling team to a Rose Bowl champion. He made a total of six Rose Bowl appearances during his coaching career. In recognition of his achievements, James was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1997.

James is survived by his wife of 61 years, Carol, as well as their children Jeff, Jill, and Jeni, and 10 grandchildren.

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