Jim Sweeney

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Fresno State legend Jim Sweeney passes away

Jim Sweeney is 19th on college football's all-time wins list. (Photo: Mary A. Lommori/Fresno Bee)

Jim Sweeney is college football’s 19th winningest coach. (Photo: Mary A. Lommori/Fresno Bee)

[dropcap]L[/dropcap]egendary Fresno State head coach Jim Sweeney passed away Friday at the age of 83.

Sweeney led the Bulldogs for 19 seasons, and is Fresno State’s all-time winningest coach with 144 victories. His Bulldog teams won eight conference championships and five bowl games.

“Jim Sweeney is a Bulldog legend who will be deeply missed in our community,” Fresno State’s University 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.”

Sweeney retired following the 1996 season, and the field at Bulldog Stadium was renamed Jim Sweeney Field.

“Our football team and staff are deeply saddened by the news of Coach Jim Sweeney’s death,” Bulldogs head coach Tim Deruyter said in a statement. “Coach Sweeney is an icon in college football who put Fresno State football on the national map. His larger than life personality and tenacity in which he coached the game are legendary.

“He will be sorely missed not only in Fresno and the Valley, but by the coaching community as a whole. We pray that Coach Sweeney’s family will be comforted by the knowledge that Coach’s impact was profound and his legacy will live in the hearts of the Red Wave for a long, long time.”

Born in Butte, Mont., Sweeney began his head coaching career at Montana State in 1963. After Montana State, Sweeney was head coach at Washington State from 1968-75, before being hired at Fresno State in 1976.

In 32 years as a head coach, Sweeney won 200 games which ranks 19th all-time.

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