The Dogfather of Fresno State football would not be denied this time.
Not this one last time.
Sixteen years after he made his final appearance as a coach at Bulldog Stadium, a heartbreaking loss to Air Force, Jim Sweeney at the same site was hailed as a great coach and better life-changer on a glorious mid-February day that defied the season.
Eight days after he died at the age of 83, his public memorial drew about 2,000 people -- including several hundred former players and coaching colleagues -- under slight overcast and 70 degrees.
Also present was former Bulldogs basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, who moved slowly while being assisted to a stadium seat.
BLOG REPLAY: Jim Sweeney memorial at Bulldog Stadium
The celebration of Sweeney's life featured 11 speakers, beginning with Fresno State president John Welty: "Today, we honor a man who dreamed impossible dreams and achieved impossible dreams. We gather to remember a man who will live on forever in this region."
Bulldogs football coach Tim DeRuyter followed Welty, the tributes continued with the likes of NFL Hall of Fame kicker Jan Stenerud, and they closed powerfully with former Bulldog quarterbacks Trent Dilfer and Kevin Sweeney.
PHOTOS: Jim Sweeney memorial at Bulldog Stadium
In the most moving moment of the nearly two-hour ceremony, Kevin Sweeney stepped away from the lectern set up on a platform at the 50-yard line and asked for June Sweeney to meet him, presenting Jim Sweeney's widow with a football: "The game ball of life."
June and Jim Sweeney were married for 23 years after the coach's first wife of 38 years, Cile, died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1988.
Kevin Sweeney, the youngest of nine children born to Jim and Cile, first thanked Welty and others before concentrating on June Sweeney: "You have been a rock, you've been amazing, to see how you took care of Dad."
Jim Sweeney had seven surgeries in the last six years of a Fresno State career that ended in 1996 -- two back, two angioplasties, prostate, rotator cuff and leg. And, in the past few years, his health declined rapidly following a stroke.
Kevin Sweeney, an NCAA record-breaking quarterback for the Bulldogs from 1982-86, gave his father a salute consistent for the day: "He was passionate about family, passionate about football and holding people accountable. He was a chance-taker and very special about it."
Kevin Sweeney also read a letter he received from one of his former receivers, Ron Jenkins. It said in part: "College football has lost a great man and Fresno State a great leader. But as every great leader does, he leaves behind a legacy."
The life of that legacy will be supported, DeRuyter said, by first having his team bearing Jim Sweeney decals on their helmets next season and, long range, with the construction of the "Jim Sweeney Learning Center" on campus.
DeRuyter, who just finished his first season at Fresno State, acknowledged he didn't know Sweeney that well: "But to hear players tell stories and his effect humbles me as a coach."
Sharing their experiences on Jim Sweeney Field were a range of former players from Montana State, Washington State and Fresno State -- Stenerud, former Purdue coach Joe Tiller, Washington State Athletic Director Bill Moos and ex-Bulldogs Jethro Franklin, Lorenzo Neal, Dilfer and Sweeney.
One became emotional, and he knew he would -- Dilfer.
"Coach Sweeney told me it was OK to cry, to bear your soul to those you love and care about," said Dilfer, who played 14 years in the NFL and now is an ESPN analyst.