Jim Fenwick, former Valley College athletic director and football coach, dies at 69

Updated: Feb 28

Working in four decades of Valley College sports, Fenwick coached through different eras of the football program and oversaw athletics until his retirement.

By Benjamin Royer, Sports Editor

Jim Fenwick was Valley College's athletic director for eight years and spent parts of four decades as a coach for Valley football. Fenwick passed on Thursday at 69. Photo from December 2020. ( Ava Rosate / The Valley Star)

Jim Fenwick, who coached Valley College football intermittently throughout four decades and was athletic director from 2012 to 2020, died on Thursday. He was 69.

Fenwick, who retired as athletic director in 2020, was in his second battle with Leukemia before he passed.

Fenwick spent 12 years coaching football at Valley. From 1987 to 1988, 1991 to 1996 and 2009 to 2012, Fenwick oversaw the program. Starting in 1991, he was the head coach for the Monarchs. Fenwick was promoted to athletic director following his final four-year stint as a coach, holding the title from 2012 until his retirement.

“It was a tremendous loss,” said Athletic Director Dave Mallas, who took over for Fenwick after holding interim status in 2021. “Not just for Valley College, but the San Fernando Valley and the entire valley. I have been in the valley for 20 years, been at Valley [College] for 18 years now. He is a hall-of-fame coach and a hall-of-fame person. It was devastating. He was a great athletic director to work for. I got to be with him as a peer and as a colleague when we were both coaching. It is a tough loss.”

Fenwick coached numerous teams at multiple levels of college football throughout his 46-year career. Fenwick started his post-playing career as head coach at Pierce College (1981-1986). After being the Brahmas’ coach, Fenwick moved to Valley in 1986 due to Prop 13, which shuffled teachers around the district. Following his first three years in Valley Glen, the legend moved on to coach in CSUN’s football program. He also spent time at the University of New Mexico, Miami University (OH), the University of Pacific and Occidental College — taking assistant roles such as running backs coach, special teams coach, quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator.

Returning to Valley in 1991, Fenwick coached the Monarchs until 1996 and had a 50-15 record during his five years in charge. He was rewarded with the coach of the year honor in 1994. In 1997, he returned to CSUN, leading the Division I program as their head coach, but only spent one year in charge of the Matadors. Fenwick traveled up north in 1999 and was head coach at Eastern Oregon through 2005.

“Jim was an amazing person, said Valley President Barry Gribbons. "He had an incredible impact on our athletics program, from his time coaching football to when he was the athletic director. But even beyond that he just had an incredible impact on all of us at the college. He was such a nice, kind, genuine, generous, wise person and we all miss him. It's just a tremendous loss for the campus community.”

Diagnosed with Leukemia 18 years ago, Fenwick's family rallied around him through his first battle with the disease.

His son, Casey, donated bone marrow and sent Fenwick’s cancer into remission. He was cleared as cancer-free in 2005. However, in November, the LA Times reported that the illness had returned. According to the article, Fenwick received another bone marrow transplant from his granddaughter, Kyleigha.

Fenwick is survived by his wife, Gayle, sons Casey and Tyler and his five grandchildren.

A memorial service is planned for March 15 at Our Lady of the Lourdes Church in Northridge. Starting at 11:30 a.m., Fenwick's family invites "loved ones, family members and colleagues" to attend and remember the life of the Valley icon.

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