Gene Estes, known affectionately as “Red”, passed away on September 29, 2021 at the age of 84. He led an illustrious career at Fresno State as a cross-country coach and faculty in the Department of Kinesiology, where he later earned distinction as a professor emeritus. His dedication to both athletics and academics is among his many hallmarks to the University.
A plaque in the foyer of North Gym commemorates Estes’ contributions to the campus he loved. In fact, he returned many times, long after he retired from coaching and teaching. Prior to 2020, Estes regularly utilized the Kinesiology fitness facility two to three times a week, and was a guest at many CHHS events throughout the years.
Estes began his coaching career in 1964, as the Bulldogs’ cross-country coach alongside famed coach Dutch Warmerdam. Throughout his 33 seasons, Estes guided the men’s team to 17 conference championships in both track and field and cross-country; and led the women’s team to the Big West Championship in 1988. Estes himself was named Big West Coach of the Year nine times.
Shortly after arriving at Fresno State, Estes began teaching in what was formerly known as the Department of Physical Education and Athletics (known today as the Department of Kinesiology). Dr. Scott Sailor, former chair in the Department of Kinesiology, has fond memories of his time learning under Estes.
“If you were recruited to be on Red’s track team then essentially you were adopted into the Estes family,” Sailor said. “I had the pleasure of working with Red’s track team as an athletic trainer. He taught me a lot about track, but I learned even more about the inner workings of athletics from him. He expected a lot out of his athletes and staff, both on the track and off, but he never expected more out of anyone than he was willing to do himself. Nothing was beneath him when it came to supporting his track program.”
“It would be hard to imagine any human could be more humble and more humorous than Red Estes,” said Kinesiology alumnus, Joe Herzog (pictured above with Estes). “How many young men and women benefitted from his unique personality, his dedication to hard work and his extraordinary level of expertise in his chosen fields, I cannot tell you. He was my coach, mentor and friend for 57 years and I canot imagine where my career, my life would have gone without him.”
Estes went on to be inducted into the U.S. Track and Field Hall of Fame in 2000 and later, the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010.
In lieu of a memorial service, the Estes family has requested donations be made in his memory to the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame.
Read more about Estes’ celebrated career at the links below: