Charles Anthony stood six feet tall and tipped the scales at 217 pounds when he was a senior at Edison High School in 1969. Charles Anthony was a Tiger coming at you at mach speed from the linebacker position. Winning championships for head coach, Jim Fugman, and playing alongside the likes of the great Charle Young at Edison, led to many opportunities for Anthony. Along the way, he won All-League and All-Valley, and All-Northern California honors and plenty others including being named the Lineman of the Year by the Fresno Bee during his senior year and named to the Sun-Kist Prep All-American team in 1969. Charles had plenty of offers to play football anywhere he wanted following his graduation from Edison in 1970 and he chose a good one: the University of Southern California.
John McKay was indeed happy to have Charles aboard with the Trojans. So much so, he assigned him the #55 to wear on his uniform. It was a privilege to wear that number and you had the respect of teammates and coaches when you did (notably worn by Willie MeGinest and Junior Seau). He did not let down his teammates or coaches.
With his teammate from Edison, Charle Young, Anthony played for the Trojans from 1971 to 1973. He was a three-year starter for the Trojans, making the All-PAC 8 team in 1972 and 1973. He played in two Rose Bowl games and had a great college career, but the biggest thrill might be that he was a starter with the 1972 Trojans, a team that won the National Championship and is also the team that many people call the best USC team in history. During that year, Charles also won the MVP award for the drubbing the Trojans gave to Notre Dame, 45-23, at the L.A. Coliseum. Then, the Trojans went on to beat Ohio State in the Rose Bowl to claim that National Championship.
The San Diego Chargers drafted Anthony in 1973. Injuries took their toll on the rookie linebacker and he left the Chargers after one year and then played in the CFL for a couple of years with the BC Lions and the Ottawa Roughriders, but the injuries cut short his pro career. Charles is still remembered as one of Fresno County's best football players.
Hal Britton is arguably one of the best fast-pitch softball players in the nation. Britton was the catcher for six national tournament Hoak Packers teams and was chosen All-American in five of these contests where his team won four times.
Britton also was an outstanding baseball catcher and infielder with professional offers, but in 1972, he opted for a different job with the Fresno Police Department. He held every rank in the organization, including six years as police chief before his retirement. "Softball in my days with the Hoaks was mostly pitching and we had the best with Zimmerman and Les Haney. Britton recalled. "When you reached the Nationals, you need to score runs and I could hit good pitching. I played some shortstop on the Roma Wines team, but with the Packers the last five years, I caught every game. Not too many people could catch Haney and Zim. They had different styles. Haney could just overpower you. He could throw it up or down. Zim was smarter and worked around batters. They both would strike out twenty batters a game."
Britton said the second or third year that the Fresno Hoak Packers were together they had a perfect season. They won the National Softball Championship in 1950, sweeping all five games in Greeley, Colorado. They won the International Softball League Nationals in 1951 and 1952 and lost to the Long Beach Nitehawks in 1953. In 1954 under the banner of the Selma Hoak Packers, they defeated the Dinuba Condors for their final ISL championship played in Selma before crowds of upwards of 10,000 people. Britton said the league folded before the 1955 season because teams couldn't afford to pay the premier pitchers big salaries.
In the beginning Britton was born in a house only a block from Holmes Playground. It was during the Depression when Britton was seven that his father died. Britton went to Roosevelt High School and was All-City in football, basketball, and baseball. He also played in the Fresno Twilight League from the time he was fifteen years old with the Plantation Club. He pointed out that in a town of just 55,000 people, there were 5,000 fans crammed into Holmes Field for the Twilight League Little World Series. The Twilight League was the incubator for a number of local professional players, some of whom made the major leagues. The 165-pound Britton never thought he was big enough to catch professionally.
In 1949, Fresno promoter Al Dermer put together a team which included pitchers Bob Feller and Mike Garcia of the Cleveland Indians and Coast League rookie, Gus Zernial. They played Luke Easter's All-Stars in Fresno. "This was October and I hadn't touched a baseball in two months, but Pete Beiden called and wanted me to catch Feller," Britton said. "He convinced me to play and I caught Feller for three innings, Garcia for three innings, and Vic Lombardi for three innings. We won before a very small crowd, but we brought Easter's team back a week later and we won again." That was the first time Britton met Zernial and the two have maintained a close friendship.
In an over fifty year bowling career that has taken him to the four corners of the globe, picking up many championships, awards, and enough remarkable success to easily get him elected to the American Bowling Congress (ABC) Hall of Fame, Bill Bunetta was grateful for the fame and fortune that the sport gave him. The thing that he was most grateful for was the recognition gave him the opportunity to do what he loved most and that was to teach. As great as his competitive career was, Bill achieved even more distinction as one of the profound students and theoreticians of the sport. He was known to many in the bowling world as "The Professor." Many of his competitors on the pro tour over the years called on Bill to help coach them because of his prowess in the knowledge of the analytical and technical aspects of the game.
Bill Bunetta was born in Detroit, Michigan and that was where his bowling career began to take shape. In fact, he was the only professional bowler to win all four of Michigan's major bowling tournaments. Bill moved to Fresno in 1961 and spotlighted the city as his championships and national TV appearances always noted that Bill was from Fresno, California. All throughout his career, he would find new ways to amaze people. For example, he was a prolific 300 bowler in that he bowled a perfect game, knocking down all pins in every frame over 150 times. At age seventy-six, Bill became the oldest bowler in the world to bowl back-to-back 300 games.
Bill Bunetta was inducted into the ABC Hall of Fame in 1968 after winning his fifth ABC title. The National Championships, the ABC titles, and his recognition as one of the best in his sport were all wonderful experiences for Bill. However, the prestige of being a pioneering instructor for the sport of bowling meant the most. Bill's biographer, Danny Ayers said, "To me, Bill Bunetta embodied what it was to truly be an athletic hero. To achieve so many great things in a sport, and then gladly turn around and teach it to so many others to help them get to whatever level they set their goals for, whether they be professional or just for fun." Bill Bunetta, a charter member of the Professional Bowlers Association and the sole bowler in the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame, died March 22, 2010 in Fresno of heart failure at the age of 90.
When Pat Howell was growing up in Fresno, he was a multi-sport player, but football was his favorite. Taller than most, Pat was unique in the fact that he liked to play on the line and block. In Pop Warner football, Pat's coach, Russ Pulliam, influenced the young Howell to always play hard. "He was one of the toughest coaches I ever played for, but I respected him and loved him. He certainly put me in the right direction and his influence helped me right through my football career and even to who I am today." Pat's father, Harry, taught Pat that hard work and discipline were important traits in achieving success in life. "My dad was strict, but fair with us kids and he motivated me in many ways. He had a 'Do it right or do it over,' kind of rule about things, but he provided lots of encouragement for us," remembers Pat.
Howell enjoyed playing football at Fresno High under Vance Stanley, who coached with passion and intensity. "He instructed us well and motivated us to keep improving and even to think about the next level," says Pat. Another thing that helped Pat prepare for his future was weightlifting. Weight programs were not so much in style in the 1970s, but while in high school, the 235 pound right tackle was lifting 400 pounds regularly. "My dad was a weightlifter and I was inspired by him and my brother, Craig, who went on to play football at the University of Colorado," says Pat, "And also my brother-law, Mike Long, who got a ride as a linebacker at UOP" By the time he was a senior, Pat was hearing from many colleges, but Pat chose to play at USC where he was recruited by legendary line coach Marv Goux. "Coach Goux was one of the best recruiters anywhere, as he had great passion and a toughness about him,that just made you want to play for him," Pat said recently, "And he just owned the Valley. So many players from here played at USC and a lot of that was because of Marv Goux."
A wise choice indeed as Pat Howell had a great career at USC. He was a two-time All-American and finished a runner-up for the Lombardi Award in 1978. From 1975 to 1978, the Trojans had a record of 37-10, winning two PAC 10 championships, four bowl games, twice beating Michigan in the Rose Bowl (1976, 1978), and winning the National Championship in 1978. Recently, the Los Angeles Times reported that the 1978 USC football team could still be the best Trojan team of all time. Pat was also named to the Bob Hope All-American Team. The Atlanta Falcons grabbed Howell in the second round of the 1979 NFL Draft. He played for Atlanta for four years and the Falcons made the post-season twice. In 1983, Pat was traded to the Houston Oilers and finished his eight-year NFLcareer. He played in sixty-seven games despite being plagued by ankle, shoulder, and elbow surgeries.
Pat Howell retired in 1985 and returned home with wife, Michelle, to Fresno. Their daughter, Lauren went to Bullard High where she was an outstanding volleyball player and played at Pepperdine University. She is a teacher and coach with the Fresno Unified School District. Their son, Nick, also an outstanding athlete at Bullard High, competed in football for USC. Pat is a team leader for RBC Wealth Management Company. He has been in the brokerage/investment business for more than two decades. He continued to work out with weights and volunteer as a football coach for the Bullard High School Knights.
He looks like a coach, he talks like a coach, he walks like a coach, he yells like a coach, and he could motivate a team to greatness. Early in his college football coaching career, James Joseph Sweeney led Montana State to a 31-20 record in five seasons. The young coach went to be interviewed for the head football position at Washington State University. Glen Terrell, the WSU president at the time, was so inspired by Jim Sweeney's first interview that he declared that he "wanted to suit up himself and go out for the team." Needless to say, Jim got the Job. In thirty-four seasons as a NCAA Division I head coach (Montana State from 1963 to 1967, Washington State from 1968 to 1975, Fresno State from 1976 to 1977 and 1980 to 1996), Coach Sweeney won 200 games, the last was a 41-7 victory over Boise State in Bulldog Stadium.
He was named a coach of the year eleven times. In 1989, he was a finalist for the National Coach of the Year award. At Fresno State under Sweeney, the Bulldogs moved into the national spotlight by capturing three Pacific Coast Athletic Association (PCAA) championships, three Big West titles, and two Western Athletic Conference (WAC) titles. From 1985 to 1993, his Dogs had nine consecutive victorious seasons, while going 72-22-2. Coach Sweeney led the Bulldogs to a 5-2 record in postseason bowl game appearances, winning four California Bowl games and losing only one. In the Freedom Bowl on Christmas Day in 1992, the Dogs upset USC 24-7 in front of 58,546 fans in Anaheim Stadium and a national television audience.
In 1977, Sweeney led Fresno State to a 9-2 record and accepted an offer to be an assistant coach with the Oakland Raiders under John Madden in 1978. In 1979, he accepted an offer to coach for the St. Louis Cardinals. "I know there were people who were upset with me for doing that, but I think it helped me in expanding my horizons in that I became more of a passing football coach and I think that was good." Sweeney said, “I enjoyed my time in the NFL, but I felt I could do more service in the college game. At Fresno State, I saw an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of something that had a tremendous growth potential. I saw Fresno as a sleeping giant who could play with anybody. Not only was there a great potential for a solid recruiting program, but there was a small, but intense support group called the Bulldog Foundation and that group was unique and in great favor of building the sports programs at Fresno State, starting with a new, state of the art football stadium complex. Bob Duncan, Bud Richter, Lou Eaton, Leon Peters, Pat Ogle, and many others put a lot on the line to build the football stadium and it was a great time as it all started coming together."
Bulldog Stadium, also known as Jim Sweeney Field, opened officially on November 15, 1980 with a Fresno State 21-14 victory over Montana State. The stadium is currently ranked the 23rd best college football facility in the nation. The Bulldog fans are loyal, loud, and enthusiastic. Since 1980, the Bulldogs have won well over eighty percent of their games on home turf. Jim Sweeney has coached so many great players over the years, notably Jan Stenerud, Steve Cordle, Henry Ellard, Steven Baker, Stephone Paige, James Williams, Trent Dilfer, Lorenzo Neal, and Aaron Craver. He has worked with many legendary coaches as well, including Dennis Erickson, Lane Kiffin, Joe Tiller, Jeff Tedford, Willy Robinson, and Kelly Skipper.
Jim's son, Kevin, is probably most remembered by Valley fans. In 1986, Kevin broke Doug Flutie's all time NCAA Division I career passing record. "It is a highlight, no doubt," says Jim, "Recently, a friend sent me a Washington State game program from 1972 when I was still coaching the Cougars. In it, there was a feature about my children and they asked Kevin what it was like to be the son of the coach. Kevin was ten or eleven at the time and he said ‘My father has 105 sons. They are all playing football here and I'm just one of them. I'm the youngest." That was some amazing insight there." Kevin's career at Fresno State and in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers was a treat for the whole Sweeney family. Three grandsons have followed on the family athletic path: Kevin's son, Beau played for Cal Berkeley; Kyle Negrete was recruited to play football and baseball at the University of San Diego; and Nate Fellner was a two-way football performer with an outstanding career at Clovis West High School.
There are many records and highlights in Sweeney's Career, but his best insights come from an expansive interview. On coaching: "Really, it's not so much the victories or the championships, but the journey. Whose life do you affect, on what level, as you go along, dealing with the defeat AND the victory, you know, making you the person you are and affecting the people you are teaching." On players and teams: "It's not just players going out from Fresno State to the NFL, but young people of ours going off into the community as teachers, coaches, preachers, and businessmen...Every one of our teams had those guys on it and it is a pleasure to see them out there working in their communities and especially, this community. Their loyalty to the program is great. Hopefully, they can pass along whatever good they got from the program." Coach Sweeney is still active in Fresno where he and his wife, June, like to visit with their children and grandchildren. Jim is a motivational speaker and can be talked into his famous Bulldog spell-outs to get a crowd going. As the colorful coach has always said, "Go Bulldogs, win the WAC."