Jim Sweeney, who coached the Washington State football team from 1968-75, has died at the age of 83. Fresno State, where Sweeney coached for 19 seasons after leaving the Cougars, announced his death late Friday. The school did not provide any details of Sweeney’s passing.
Sweeney retired following the 1996 season with 200 victories in 32 seasons. At Washington State, Sweeney went 26-59-1 overall and 12-41-1 in conference play. He produced his best team in 1972, when the Cougars went 7-4 and tied for third in the Pac-8 race.
In his final year (1975), the Cougars went 3-8 overall and 0-7 in conference games, finishing that season with a memorable Apple Cup loss to the Washington Huskies.
Wazzu led the Huskies 27-14 with three minutes to go and Sweeney acceded to the urgings of quarterback John Hopkins, who wanted to pile on another touchdown. But Hopkins’ pass was intercepted by Al Burleson and returned 93 yards for a touchdown, and a minute later Warren Moon found Spider Gaines on a tipped 78-yard scoring pass. The Huskies prevailed 28-27 and Sweeney resigned the next Monday.
Sweeney’s most noteworthy accomplishment at WSU came in 1971 when the Cougars defeated Rose Bowl-bound Stanford, which helped him earn NCAA District 8 Coach of the Year honors.
Sweeney, who began his head coaching career at Montana State (1963-67), became Fresno State’s head coach in 1976 and spent two seasons at the school before becoming an assistant coach with the Oakland Raiders in 1978. After spending the 1979 season with the St. Louis Cardinals, Sweeney returned to Fresno State and coached the Bulldogs in seven bowl games. Five of his teams won 10 or more games, and he had a 144-74-3 record when he retired.
Born Sept. 1, 1929 in Butte, MT., Sweeney played college football (receiver) at the University of Portland. At the time of his death, Sweeney was living in a senior living home due to failing health.