FRESNO -- Jim Sweeney, who christened Fresno State a "sleeping giant" when he arrived in 1976 and then awakened not only the school but a region with 19 years of charismatic, firm and witty leadership as a football coach, died Friday. He was 83.

"He was the catalyst, he gave us hope, and he gave us pride," said longtime Bulldogs booster Harry Gaykian. "He took us from being obscure to being somebody."

Sweeney had been admitted recently for a week at Saint Agnes Medical Center. His failing health had forced him and his wife, June, to move a couple of months earlier from their Clovis home to San Joaquin Gardens, a senior living community with continuing care services in Fresno.

Sweeney died at San Joaquin Gardens, according to John Wallace, former Bulldogs Foundation president.

Fresno State football coach Tim DeRuyter reacted on Twitter to his predecessor's passing: "My thoughts and prayers are with the Sweeney family. What an honor it is to follow his legacy."

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