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The Dawgfather Talks Husky Football

Flickr Photo/Curtis Cronn
The Husky Stadium before its recent rennovation.

The University of Washington Huskies inaugurated their newly renovated football stadium in style on Saturday night. The Huskies beat number 19 ranked Boise State 38 to 6. It was great news for coach Steve Sarkisian. He's led the team for the past five years and he desperately wants to restore the Huskies to their former glory days.

Twenty-two years ago, in 1991, the University of Washington was on top of the football heap. The team shared a national title with Miami and the man at the helm was Don James. He remembers that night that the national title was finally announced.

Well I was up all night, because there's two ballots and the one that was most important to us still hadn't come in. I knew we'd get that beautiful football, and we'd have it in our trophy case forever. We were not sure, I think it was probably 4 or 5 in the morning. We were at the hotel at the Rose Bowl in [the] Marriott and I think that the media were out in the hallway waiting to get my response when it came in. But it finally came in and we were nominated number 1. I was beside myself with joy, I don't know if I've felt anything better.

Don James coached the Huskies for 18 years. In addition to the national title, James led the team to the Rose Bowl four times as well as to the Orange Bowl.

Things began to turn south for the Huskies in 1992. The PAC 10 conference leveled sanctions against the Huskies for a series of recruiting violations. James was incensed. He was especially angry about what he saw as a lack of support from his university administration

I was in a meeting — we had a week to appeal and I had the original sanctions. We were going to play 11 games, then the three Rose bowls, then it was going to be over. They were going to take some TV money away from us — I don't go want to go into this. We went down there and appealed, we didn't want to lose the money. It would hurt women's sports, it would hurt everything. That was enough for me; after all I've done for this university and this league. I said take this job and shove it. That was my last job.

Don James never coached again, but he's still part of the Husky tradition. Steve Sarkisian invited him to speak to the players before a recent practice. James told the team they needed to earn the Boise State players' respect. With their lopsided win, they certainly did that. Don James has also certainly earned the Huskies' respect and the unofficial title of "Dawgfather." James won't admit he's anything special though.

I'm just one of many coaches that coached there. I'd rather they call me [Dawgfather] than some other things.

Produced by Amina Al-Sadi.