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Ex-Fresno State coach Jim Sweeney dies at age 83

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) -- Jim Sweeney, who coached Fresno State's football team for 19 seasons and retired with a school-record 144 victories, has died. He was 83.

The school announced Sweeney's death on Friday night. It provided no further details.

"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," athletic 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 also coached Montana State and Washington State before he was hired by Fresno State in 1976. He retired following the 1996 season, and the field at Bulldog Stadium was renamed in his honor.

Sweeney finished with 200 wins in 32 seasons as a head coach.

"Coach Sweeney is an icon in college football who put Fresno State football on the national map," current Bulldogs coach Tim DeRutyer said. "His larger than life personality and tenacity in which he coached the game are legendary."

During Sweeney's time with the Bulldogs, they had 35 players selected in the NFL draft. Trent Dilfer and Henry Ellard were among his most prominent players.

Sweeney, a native of Butte, Mont., also spent time as an assistant coach with the NFL's Oakland Raiders and St. Louis Cardinals.

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