MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Few could have realized when University of Miami quarterback Don James graduated in 1954 with a degree in education just how much of an impact he would have on the college football world.

James passed away at the age of 80 on Sunday after a legendary career as a head coach and mentor to some of the top coaches in college football today. James coached at Kent State and then took over at the University of Washington where he built a powerhouse program from 1975-1992.

James was 153-57-2 at UW and his crowning moment came in 1991 when Washington finished the season 12-0 and split the national championship, coincidentally, with his alma mater, UM.

The influence of James, affectionately known at UW as “The Dawgfather,” is readily evident in modern college football. Arguably his top two protégés, Missouri’s Gary Pinkel and Alabama’s Nick Saban, both have their teams ranked in the top five when James passed away.

Both Pinkel and Saban frequently mention the impact James had on their personal and professional lives and were saddened to hear of James’ passing.

“It’s hard to put into words how much it hurts to lose a man like Don James,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said Sunday night. “He was my coach, my mentor, my friend, and he had such an amazing influence on my life, both personally and professionally.”

James lived long enough to see Pinkel and Saban match wits last year in a game that saw Alabama blow out Missouri. This year, it would almost be fitting if Pinkel and Saban can keep their teams winning and meet up for a shot at the National Championship.

“He was a special man and meant the world to me,” Saban said Sunday night. “There aren’t enough words to describe not only the great coach he was, but how much he cared for people and the positive impact he made in the lives of everyone he came in contact with. Coach James was my mentor and probably did more than anybody to influence me in this profession.”

James was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1997 and gave an annual preseason speech to the Huskies team and attended the first game at the renovated UW stadium on August 31 against Boise State.

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