James played at Miami in 1952 and 1953, leading the Hurricanes to an 8-12 record in those two seasons. In 1952, he set then-school records for completions (82), attempts (144), yards (913) and completion percentage (56.9 percent). The next season, he broke his own single-season records for completions (121) and passing yards (1,363). He also played defensive back.
After graduating from Miami in 1954 with a bachelor’s degree in education, James began a lengthy coaching career serving as an assistant at Florida State, Michigan, and Colorado.
He was named head coach at Kent State in 1971 where he had a 25-19-1 record in four years and where he was named the 1972 Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year. James led Kent Sate to the program’s first bowl game.
In 1975, he took over as the coach at Washington where he coached for 18 seasons, leading the Huskies to six conference titles and the 1991 national championship. That season, he won four different national coach of the year awards and at the time of his retirement, his 10 bowl wins were the fourth-most in major college football history behind Bear Bryant, Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden.
James is survived by his wife, Carol, their three children Jeff, Jill, and Jeni and 10 grandchildren.
According to LA Times reports:
"At home and comforted by family, longtime Washington football coach Don James passed away this morning from the effects of pancreatic cancer," the school said in a statement. "The James family would like to thank the thousands of friends, former players and fellow coaches, and fans who prayed and expressed their love and support for Don these past few weeks."
Here is an in-depth obit from the school.
"Never ever forget how 1 life can impact so many," former Washington quarterback Brock Huard tweeted Sunday. "Coach James, you will never be forgotten & your legacy lives on in the lives you changed."
Washington Coach Steve Sarkisian also expressed his condolences in a statement.
"My family and I are extremely saddened to hear of Coach James' passing," 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."