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PACIFIC 10 SANCTIONS WASHINGTON : Loss of a Nearly Peerless Coach Comes as a Shock to His Peers : Reaction: James' resignation elicits almost universal surprise from coaches across the nation.

August 23, 1993|JIM HODGES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The most visible penalty meted out to Washington by the Pacific 10 Conference on Sunday was the requirement that the Huskies be invisible at the Rose Bowl game for two years.

That they are cut out when it's time for the conference to cut up television money is something administrators noticed right away.

But when coaches and athletic officials learned of Coach Don James' resignation after the sanctions, all that seemed to pale in significance. A member of their fraternity had chosen to leave it, and while their responses ranged from surprise to sadness to outrage at what one coach saw as a sign of the college football times, their expressions were remarkably consistent.

"I'm stunned," said Rich Brooks, Oregon's coach and athletic director. "The coaching profession has lost an ethical, hard-working and outstanding football coach. I just hope he hasn't made a hasty decision."

"It hit me pretty hard," Arizona Coach Dick Tomey said.

"I'm shocked," UCLA Athletic Director Peter Dalis said. "That comes as an incredible shock."

"I just found out about it and my first reaction is just complete shock," said Coach Bobby Bowden of Florida State, where James was an assistant from 1959-65.

"Well, it's sad," Arizona State Coach Bruce Snyder said.

"I'm in shock," said Grant Teaff, who recently retired as coach and athletic director at Baylor to become executive director of the American Football Coaches Assn. "I can't believe that. I'm very saddened by this."

"I think it's a sad day for football when the sport loses a person with as much integrity as Don James," said California Coach Keith Gilbertson, who received his first college job from James in 1976 and was Washington's offensive coordinator before moving to Berkeley.

"I'm sorry to hear that," said Dutch Baughman, Oregon State's athletic director and a member of the Pac-10 Compliance Committee, which sat in judgment on Washington. "Coach James conducted himself in a first-class way and as a gentleman throughout the hearings. It's unfortunate that this is the way that he's chosen to go."

But Texas A&M Coach R.C. Slocum said he had a hunch that James' days in college football were numbered.

"I've heard for several years that he was close to retiring," Slocum said. "Guys reach a point after they've been around awhile where they say it's not worth it. Those things just devastate a program. Two years of probation has a really bad effect on recruiting. People use it for two years after that: 'Well, if you go there, they don't have many players.' "

Washington was cut from 25 to 15 scholarships in each of the next two seasons, and the limit on recruiting visits was halved, from 70 to 35, for this season and to 40 for next.

"I don't know how many scholarships he would have to offer because I don't know how big a senior class he has," said Oregon State Coach Jerry Pettibone, "but when you take away recruiting, it increases pressure not to make mistakes."

Auburn Athletic Director Mike Lude was more pointed.

"That's the harshest I've ever heard of," said Lude, who was James' boss at Washington for several years, including time during which some of the Huskies' violations occurred. "It's extremely harsh. I've never experienced anything like that in my years (15) in the Pac-10."

His basis for comparison is both close and recent. Last week, Lude learned that Auburn was docked two scholarships a year for the next three years among its penalties handed down by the NCAA for rules violations involving paying an athlete.

James was the senior coach in terms of Pac-10 service, with 18 seasons, and he has 22 seasons as a college head coach.

"He's been a class act," Notre Dame Coach Lou Holtz said. "I've known him since 1961. I've followed his career because he was from Massillon (Ohio) and I was from East Liverpool. He was . . . head coach at Kent, my alma mater, and I know the people there then thought he was outstanding."

Washington's transgressions ran the gamut from no-work jobs to loans to student athletes, but none of them was traced to James or the coaching staff, a point he has made over and over during the past 10 months.

"What it does show is the difficulty in dealing with boosters," Dalis said.

"It surprises me because we had checks and balances in place (to guide booster activity)," Lude said.

In Seattle, James talked with the Washington team after workouts Sunday morning and wept after reading a statement.

Tears were commonplace on campus.

"We've been too busy crying" to continue preparations for the Huskies' first game, Sept. 4 against Stanford, said Jim Lambright, an assistant who will replace James. "It's a day of mourning. Today's a day to hurt."

Still, the motivation remains for Washington success, Stanford Coach Bill Walsh said. "My guess is that Washington will play its best and hardest each week and win a majority of their games," he said. "They have decided to destroy Stanford. We know that. It's their mission."

Washington has been picked by many to win a Pac-10 title that is now denied. "Their football team is such a major power that they'll still influence the conference race," said UCLA Coach Terry Donahue, whose Bruins will play Washington at the Rose Bowl on Oct. 16. "Kids play hard, whether they go to bowls or not."

But they will play without the coach who brought them to Washington. The most visible person on the sideline will no longer be there.

Said Ohio State Coach John Cooper: "He's a legend in the coaching profession."

Said Washington center Jim Nevelle: "We still have 11 games. They can't take those away from us. We're going to go out and play our hardest because we're Husky football."

Times staff writers Gene Wojciechowski and Danny Robbins contributed to this report.

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