Memorial crowd reflects on Jim Sweeney's legacy

FRESNO, Calif.

There were plenty of stories and laughter, and the people say the tribute was perfect for coach. Thousands filled the famous red seats overlooking Jim Sweeney field to remember its legendary namesake.

Greg Dodderidge of Coarsegold said, "We were all laughing, and crying, but that's part of a great memorial, isn't it? To miss somebody who meant so much."

Many of Jim Sweeney's former players, his family and former colleagues spoke of the man who grew the bulldog brand, and made it so well-known in college football.

Kevin Sweeney, coach Sweeney's son, said, "And he had a vision and a dream and it came to fruition."

Among the successful bulldog alumni who showed up another athletic legend Jerry Tarkanian was there. The ceremony began with a tailgate outside the stadium.

Former bulldog Stephone Paige said, "We're going to celebrate today because every minute and every time I was with him it was always something fun, a lot of energy and a lot of good stories about him."

Other former bulldogs, like ESPN Commentator Trent Dilford spoke of how coach Sweeney turned boys into men.

Dilfer said, "People with resolve, mental and physically tough men are the ones that go and change communities."

Kevin Sweeney, Jim Sweeney's son honored coach's widow June Sweeney with what he called the "game ball of life."

And of course the crowd roared with Sweeney's words. "I got that bulldog spirit up in my head... Up in my head..."

Connie Ruiz of Fresno said, "The weather was perfect. It was just wonderful. It was really nice to see, I'm glad we came."

A funny and emotional remembrance of coach, the man who will forever mean so much to Fresno State.

Plans are also in the works right now to build a learning center in honor of coach Sweeney here at Fresno State. A tribute emblem is also being designed for the football team to wear this upcoming season.

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