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Anda Chu staff/8-26-04/Argus Long-time Washington High School football coach Jim Ingram is back out of retirement and on the field at Irvington High School after a year away from the game.

By Matt Schwab

mschwab@bayareanewsgroup.com

FREMONT -- Legendary Washington High football coach Jim Ingram, whose varsity teams won 230 games and 12 Mission Valley Athletic League titles after he succeeded Bill Walsh at the school, has died. He was 80.

Ingram, known as "Coach I," led more than 1,000 players during 39 years as the Huskies' head coach, between 1960 and 2002.

He was in the intensive care unit at Kaiser Hospital in Fremont for about three weeks before he passed on Tuesday with family members nearby. He'd suffered scratch on his leg while working out at a gym, which led to complications, according to his grandson, Aaron Ingram.

A bronze bust of Ingram's likeness was erected about a week and a half ago at Washington's Tak Fudenna Stadium. The bust was placed in front of the Jim Ingram fieldhouse.

His family is hurrying to schedule a memorial service and a tribute at the stadium within the next week.

Ingram is survived by his wife, Pat, and their three grown children, Michael, Dana and Phil, and five grandchildren.

"I can't really fathom this day has come. I never thought I'd see the day," said Aaron Ingram, an assistant football coach at Sacramento State.

Ingram's death comes less than a month after longtime Newark Memorial coach Rich Swift, another MVAL legend, succumbed to an inoperable brain tumor. He was 60.

Ingram, Swift and retired Kennedy-Fremont coach Pete Michaletos, who visited Ingram regularly during his hospital stay, were all player-first, community-first head coaches for prolonged runs in the MVAL.

"Jim Ingram was the MVAL," Michaletos said on Tuesday evening. "If you analyze and look at any program in the MVAL and even in the greater Bay Area, you'll see a touch of Ingram there someplace, either in the weight training program, the conditioning program, his offseason program, practice organization. ... There's Ingram there."

Michaletos described Ingram as a perfectionist, a great competitor and a nice person, who loved to talk football.

"He was a gentle giant," Michaletos said.

On Tuesday morning former Washington star Lyle West, who went on to play for the New York Giants and Kansas City Chiefs over a four year NFL career, and another ex-Huskies standout Jason Adams drove from the Sacramento area to say goodbye to "Coach I," who had such a profound affect on their lives.

"There's a level of peace that comes over me about Coach and the level of service that he's provided to the community," West said. "When someone passes, it does make you feel better when you know they did it the right way.

"That's what I shared with coach. He was on the machines, and I know that he heard me. We just got in his ear, and I just continued to tell him that, 'You did it the right way, coach. You did it the right way.' I started to name players that either I played with or my brothers have played with, and just told him how much he meant to those people and myself.

"I told him that each and every person loved him. I know that he heard us."

Despite his seemingly gruff exterior as a former Humboldt State football player, coach Ingram showed his players "affection and love," said West, a 1995 Washington graduate who played at Chabot College and San Jose State.

"When we get together as old players very rarely does anyone say, 'Remember that championship game or this or that?" West said. "We always tell a story about Coach and about us working hard together ... How cool is that? I mean that's ultimately what sports are all about: It's about bringing a group of people together and camaraderie and teamwork. That's really what it was."

Coach Michaletos said one of Ingram's family members took pictures of his bronze bust and showed them to him about a week ago.

"He kind of looked at it and smiled and stuff, so he got to see it," Michaletos said.