Duckfighter Illustrated: Death of a Legend Special Edition

Don James 1932 – 2013

Husky Football laid to rest in desert of Arizona

Search for new coach is underway

Calling the guilty to account

Race Bannon, in mourning

I graduated from high school in June of 1974. Due to my parents’ divorce becoming final I was starting my second year as a season ticket holder in the Fall of 1974. Jim Owens was the coach. Husky football was a faded memory of the glory years of 1959 and 1960, with a third Rose Bowl appearance in 1964. My first game in 1973 was a home loss to Hawaii, the start of a 2-9 season. Owens was not fired. I had spent most of my childhood hearing my two dads yelling that Owens should be fired.

The Huskies rebounded to a 5-6 record that included a 66-0 dust off of Oregon. Owens resigned at the end of the season.

The Huskies hired an unknown coach from Kent State, a school best known for the death of four students on May 4, 1970, shot by the National Guard. There was no internet, no sports radio to speak of, and two newspapers and three television stations. Interest in Husky Football, still the only game in town, was waning. It was not a home run hire of free pub and kick ass pressers. The most common refrain was Who?

James got off to a tough start with the usual tough schedule that Washington used to play. They lost at Arizona State and lost at home to Texas before bouncing back with wins against Navy and Oregon before a trip to face the Bear in Alabama which resulted in a 52-0 loss. Then James showed what he was made of by finishing the year on a 4-2 run that led to Rose Bowl contention into November and a thrilling win over John McKay and the USC Trojans which broke a ten year winning streak by USC over Washington. An Apple Cup for the ages left the crowd wanting more. There were no other bowls available.

By the end of his third season the Huskies were Rose Bowl champions. The rest of the story is a familiar one by now. By his tenth year he had coached in 3 Rose Bowls and an Orange Bowl, winning three of them. We would have fired him in the mid 80’s but he changed his program and won three straight Pac 10 titles, two Rose Bowls and a national championship.

His last season was wracked by scandal. The UW administration stabbed James and the Football Program in the back after they had removed his AD and replaced Mike Lude with Barbara Hedges. The University spent half a million dollars to help the NCAA hammer Washington. Gerberding picked TV money over a lesser bowl ban and James quit.

Since that day the University has played off the program he built as an ever increasing cash cow for Olympic Sports while at the same time pursuing a course of mediocrity and acting like big time winning is somehow beneath us. Big time cash grabs are not. Softball stadiums are fine, getting Husky Stadium fixed took 20 years.

Meanwhile our rivals have overtaken us and beat us like a rented mule. We are in a half hearted game of catch up in the facilities race but remain stuck with loser coaches and Crazy Larry fans.

It’s a mockery and a travesty. While the school will cry large crocodile tears for the passing of a legend, the lack of a statue while James still lived speaks volumes. I wouldn’t be surprised to see UW try to fund raise off this passing.

UW was never comfortable with James or his program and they have never missed an opportunity to crow about doing things the right way as they lose games like never before in school history. James was cash, nothing more to the cynical losers at the Upper Campus.

We may be the least classy fans on the internets with our mocking of death and despair, but we are saints compared to the slimy charlatans who tried to use the death of James to mask complaints about another curb stomping of our boy blunder of a head coach.

We made a couple of errors in our last podcast as reported by Hardcore Husky investigative reporter, Chris Hansen. We somehow melded the debut seasons of Jim Lambright and Keith Gilbertson into one horrifying event. Lambo did open against Stanford in the Bill Walsh game and then travel to Ohio State to lose. Gilby opened at Ohio State and threw his 50 yard sideway passes to the fullback (because nobody ever covers the fullback).

So I in fact, waited until Lambo’s second game before deciding he needed to be fired. I turned to my wife and said, thank God in several years we will have Ty Willingham here to lead these fine young men to an 0-12 record.

It is not a coincidence that the only coach to get to a Rose Bowl since James is the most reviled of the pack of losers that have been inflicted on us by a money grubbing administration. There is no will to win anything more than the contents of your wallet.


Let’s default the stadium bonds. Let’s stay away in droves. Let’s spend more time with our families on Saturdays in the fall.

And let’s not fall for phony eulogies delivered by phony people who treated James and his players and his AD like crap when he was alive.

I’ll mourn on my own in my own way. Same as I have done for Husky Football.

This was the day the music died for good.