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Hundreds pay respect to a Fresno State football legend

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Jim Sweeney passed away a week ago at age 83, and in true bulldog tradition the Fresno State band played the "fight song" in his honor.

One-by-one, Saturday, close friends, former players, and family members remembered the life of Jim Sweeney at his memorial service at Bulldog Stadium.

Jan Stenerud said, "Jim Sweeney totally changed my life. He gave me an opportunity; he challenged me to improve every day."

Lorenzo Neal said, "He didn't care who you were. No matter if you were a second string, third string, fourth string. Coach Sweeney knew his players."

Jim Sweeney coached briefly at Montana State and Washington State before coming to Fresno State in 1976.

He wanted to wake what he called a "sleeping giant" into a successful program the valley could be proud of. And in 1980 he helped lead the way for construction of Bulldog Stadium.

Jim Sweeney's daughter Peg Sweeney said, "Every time the bulldogs scored we jumped up and sang the bulldog fight song. The 'dogs are kicking brass. My dad came home one time and said you guys are getting a bad reputation. What's going on up there? We're just singing the bulldog fight song."

Other guest speakers joined in the playful antics on Jim Sweeney field.

And while those that knew him best shared stories of the 83-year-old. The new red wave of players and coaches understand the legacy coach Jim Sweeney leaves behind.

Fresno State football coach Tim Deruyter said, "Coach Sweeney put us on the national map, and made Fresno State the gold standard in mid major football."

Zach Greenlee said, "Coming out here, I learned so much. I have such respect for him and what he's done. For the area and region. I learned a lot. So this was definitely a cool experience and I learned a lot."

Jim Sweeney's wife, June, received the "game ball of life" at the memorial service.

Current dogs head coach Tim Deruyter announced plans of a Jim Sweeney learning center near Bulldog Stadium as well as special uniforms next season that will honor the most winning coach in bulldog football history.

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