Former KSU coach Don James dies

Former coach Don James. Photo courtesy of MCT Campus.

Former coach Don James. Photo courtesy of MCT Campus.

Tim Dorst

Don James, former Kent State football coach, died Sunday at his Kirkland, Wash., home at the age of 80 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

James coached the Kent State football team from 1971 to 1974, leading the Flashes to their second bowl-game appearance and their only Mid-American Conference championship in 1972. With James as head coach, the Flashes compiled an overall record of 25-19-1 in four seasons.

The Kent State athletic department released a statement Sunday night regarding James’ death.

“Coach James revitalized the program,” Director of Athletics Joel Nielsen said in the statement. “Our thoughts are with his wife, Carol, and his family.”

Current coach Paul Haynes and the team will recognize James during Saturday’s game against the Buffalo Bulls, according to the statement.

A Massillon native, James coached Kent State in the Tangerine Bowl in 1972, the team’s last bowl appearance until the 2012 season. He returned to Kent State briefly before last season’s opening game, where he participated in the festivities honoring the 1972 MAC Championship team and attended a team meeting to encourage last season’s Flashes before the season began.

Members of the Kent State teams that James coached included NFL Hall of Famer Jack Lambert, Alabama head coach Nick Saban and Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel.

After coaching at Kent State, James became the football coach at the University of Washington in 1975 and finished his career with the most wins of any coach in Washington football history. The Huskies won 153 games in 18 seasons under James, including six Pacific-10 (now Pacific-12) championships, six Rose Bowl appearances and a share of the national championship in 1991.

The American Football Coaches Association named James national coach of the year in 1977, and the Football Writers Association awarded James the same honor in 1991. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1997.

Tim Dorst is the sports editor for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].