SEATTLE — The University of Washington and its fans honored legendary football coach Don James on Saturday night, and those tributes were a big part — and certainly an emotional part — of the homecoming game against California at Husky Stadium.
The tributes were a fitting remembrance of James, who died last Sunday at his Kirkland home from the effects of pancreatic cancer. He was 80.
“It was a great night to honor coach James,” UW head coach Steve Sarkisian said. “He and his family deserve much more than we could’ve even done tonight.”
The James family, including wife Carol, son Jeff James, and daughters Jill Woodruff and Jeni Simmons, appeared on the field for the pregame coin toss. They were joined by 10 grandchildren and other extended family members.
Later, the entire halftime program was dedicated to James. It began with a video presentation that highlighted James’ career accomplishments at Washington. The marching band then played a selection of songs from the James era, including the Kool and the Gang classic, “Celebration,” which was a James favorite.
The halftime ceremony closed with the introduction of scores of former James players, who formed a tunnel for the Huskies as they returned to the field for the second half.
To make time for the tribute, athletic department officials moved the traditional homecoming ritual of blanket-bearing UW athletic alumni forming a corridor for the team coming onto the field from halftime to pregame.
There were also circular insignias with the initials “DJ” on both 25-yard lines.
Touchingly, the UW marching band presented the American flag on the field before the game in its traditional manner, but then lowered the flag to half staff in honor of James.
Earlier Saturday, the James family raised a large purple “DJ” flag atop the Space Needle.
James coached the Huskies from 1975 to his abrupt resignation in protest of conference sanctions against his program just weeks before the 1993 season opener. During his 18 seasons, he guided Washington to a 153-57-2 record and six Rose Bowl appearances, including four Rose Bowl wins. His 1991 team shared the national championship with Miami.
A public memorial service for James will take place at 3 p.m. today at Alaska Airlines Arena on the UW campus. Doors open at 2 p.m.
Sankey tops 1,000 yards
For the second time in his UW career, junior running back Bishop Sankey has topped 1,000 rushing yards for a season. Sankey, who finished Saturday’s 41-17 win over Cal with 241 yards on 27 carries, went over 1,000 with a 32-yard carry early in the second quarter. He is the fourth Husky running back to reach 1,000 yards twice in a career.
Sankey also had his 28th and 29th career rushing touchdowns, moving him into a tie for third place all-time with Jake Locker and Rashaan Shehee.
Charles, Shirley out
Offensive guard Dexter Charles, a Stanwood High School graduate, missed his second straight game with a shoulder injury.
Also missing was defensive end Josh Shirley, who was on the team’s depth chart before the game. Instead he watched the game in street clothes from the UW sideline, the victim of a strained calf muscle.
UW place-kicker Travis Coons kicked a 46-yard field goal late in the first quarter. It was a career-long kick for Coons, a senior.