Jim Sweeney, Iconic Fresno State Football Coach, Dies At 83

on February 09 2013 5:39 PM

Jim Sweeney, iconic head coach of Fresno State’s football team for 19 seasons, has died at the age of 83.

Sweeney died Friday, although no details about his passing have been revealed, according to the Fresno State site on the CBSSports.com College Network. He is the school's all-time wins leader with 144.

"Most of what our football program has accomplished in recent years was clearly made possible by the path that Coach Sweeney blazed for Fresno State football throughout his two decades of leadership," Fresno State’s athletics director Thomas Boeh said in a statement. "He was a man of vision, toughness, and character who led the Bulldogs to new heights and went on to become a national icon."

Sweeney joined the Fresno State Bulldogs in 1976 after stints as head coach at Montana State and Washington State. He retired after the 1996 season. Following his departure, the school named the field at Bulldog Stadium Jim Sweeney Field.

"Jim Sweeney is a Bulldog legend who will be deeply missed in our community," Fresno State President John D. Welty said. "Not only was he one of Fresno State's most successful football coaches, but he was also a man who loved his student-athletes, first as individuals, and second as athletes, making their well-being a priority. Jim was devoted to Fresno and to our university -- he embodied the true Bulldog spirit."

Throughout Sweeney’s 32 years as head coach at all three universities, his teams won 200 times. And 35 Bulldogs who played under Sweeney later went on to join the NFL, Henry Ellard, Trend Dilfer, and Ron Cox among them.

While Sweeney is largely known for coaching college football, the native of Butte, Mont., also spent two years as an assistant coach in the NFL. After working with Fresno State for two years, he briefly left for two seasons to serve as an assistant coach for the Oakland Raiders and the St. Louis Cardinals. Soon afterward, he returned to Fresno State.

Sweeney was inducted in the Fresno Sports Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Montana State Hall of Fame in 2002.

Fresno State plans to hold a memorial service at Bulldog Stadium, although no details have been announced by the university.

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