Fresno State

Gene Bourdet, who brought Jim Sweeney and Boyd Grant to Fresno State, has died

Former Fresno State athletics director Gene Bourdet is flanked by Frank Bowman of Long Beach State, left, and Pacific Coast Athletic Association commissioner Lew Cryer, right, celebrating the 10th year of the conference.
Former Fresno State athletics director Gene Bourdet is flanked by Frank Bowman of Long Beach State, left, and Pacific Coast Athletic Association commissioner Lew Cryer, right, celebrating the 10th year of the conference. Fresno Bee file

Gene Bourdet, who as athletics director at Fresno State hired two of the best coaches in school history in Jim Sweeney and Boyd Grant and in 1985 was inducted into the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics Hall of Fame, died May 31 near his hometown of Hollister.

Bourdet, also a hall of fame athlete, coach and administrator at Montana State, was 96.

“Indebted to the contributions of this great administrator and educator. Thank you to a legendary Bulldog, Gene Bourdet. Honored and humbled to build on your legacy,” Bulldogs athletics director Terry Tumey said in a social media post.

Bourdet was the athletics director at Fresno State from 1971 to ‘79, leaving to become athletics director at San Diego State.

He hired Sweeney to run the Bulldogs football program in 1976, the start of one of the most successful runs in school history.

Fresno State was 9-2 and won the Pacific Coast Athletic Association championship in 1977, Sweeney’s second season. Three seasons later the Bulldogs were 11-1, the first of five in which they won 10 or more games over a 10-year period.

The Bulldogs have won 10 or more games in a season only four times since.

Grant was hired in 1977, leading the Bulldogs to the NCAA Tournament three times and to the NIT championship in 1983. Fresno State won better than 72% of its games in nine seasons under Grant (194-74, .724).

Bourdet also helped bring in Bulldog Foundation executive director Lynn Eilefson, who introduced a highly successful model of team volunteer fundraising.

During World War II, Bourdet served in the U.S. Army Air Corps 302nd transport wing and later volunteered for the Army’s 5th Division, 11th Infantry unit. After the war he enrolled at Montana State where he played quarterback, in 1946 leading the Bobcats to their first postseason bowl game.

Bourdet returned to his alma mater in 1956 as an assistant football and track coach and was promoted to athletics director in 1958.

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