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Miami Mourns Loss of Don James

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – University of Miami alumnus Don James, who was considered by many to be one of the first premier quarterbacks for the Hurricanes, passed away Sunday morning after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 80 years old.

James played quarterback for the Hurricanes in 1952 and 1953, leading Miami to an 8-12 mark in two seasons. During the 1952 season, he established then-UM records for completions (82), attempts (144), yards (913) and completion percentage (56.9 percent). The following season, he broke his own single-season records for completions (121) and passing yards (1,363), while also spending time at defensive back.

James graduated in 1954 with a bachelor’s degree in education. Upon graduating, he was awarded the Phillip Optner Trophy, honoring the senior player at Miami with the highest academic average. He was also inducted into Iron Arrow and later was a 1992 UM Sports Hall of Fame inductee.

After stints as an assistant coach at Florida State, Michigan and Colorado, James was named head coach at Kent State in 1971. In four seasons, he compiled a 25-19-1 record. He was named the 1972 Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year and led the Golden Flashes to a conference titles and the program’s first bowl game appearance.

In 1975 he was named head coach at the University of Washington, where he’d spend 18 seasons. He led the Huskies to six conference titles and the 1991 national championship. He was named the AFCA National Coach of the Year in 1977, when he led the Huskies to the Rose Bowl for the first time. In 1991, he won four different national coach of the year awards. At the time of his retirement in 1993, his 10 bowl victories were the fourth-most in major college football history, behind only Paul “Bear” Bryant, Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden.

James is survived by his wife, Carol, who he married in August 1952. They had three children: Jeff, Jill and Jeni, and 10 grandchildren.