As head cross country coach at Fresno State University from 1963-96 and head track & field coach from 1981-96, Gene “Red” Estes led his athletes to 7 NCAA individual titles, more than 100 All America honors, and ten consecutive Big West Conference championships.
Estes competed in the shot put and discus for USTFCCCA Hall of Famer Bill Bowerman’s squad at the University of Oregon and graduated in 1959 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education. After graduation, Estes began his coaching career at Oregon as co-track coach of the Ducks’ freshmen squad. Estes then served a stint in the U.S. Army, during which time he was a player-coach of the Counciel International du Sporte Militaire (1961-63) and competed in the discus in the 1961 Military Olympics in Brussels, Belgium.
After the Army, he took a job as the assistant track & field coach at Springfield High School in Oregon. He then stayed another year in Oregon to coach at Thurston High School and earn his master’s degree from the University of Oregon. He later received his doctorate in physical education from the University of Northern Colorado. In 1963, he began working as USTFCCCA Hall of Famer “Dutch” Warmerdam’s assistant coach at Fresno State and as head coach of the Bulldog cross country squad. When Warmerdam retired in 1981, Estes took over as Fresno’s head coach.
After taking over the program from Warmerdam, Estes captured an unprecedented ten consecutive Big West Conference championships from 1982-92 and was named Big West Coach of the Year nine times during that span. In 1994, he led the team to the WAC outdoor championship in only its second year in the conference, and in 1995, Estes was named Co-WAC Coach of the Year after the Bulldogs finished a close second at the WAC Championships. Coaching peers have long recognized Estes as one of the West Coast’s best, and in 1992 he was awarded with the Region 8 Coach of the Year honors.
Estes, the current vice president of the California/Nevada Track Coaches Association, compiled a 146-33 dual meet record and continued the Fresno State tradition of being a force at both indoor and outdoor national championships. For 14 years, Fresno State maintained a top-20 dual-meet ranking, including a school record eighth-place national finish in 1994. The Bulldogs’ previous highest ranking came in 1985 when Fresno State achieved a ninth-place final position in the National Track & Field News dual meet rankings. During his 33-year tenure as Fresno State cross country coach, Estes’ men’s teams won four conference titles, and the women’s team won the Big West championship in 1988.
Estes is honored in the Mt. SAC Relays Hall of Fame. He currently serves as head of the Fresno State recycling program, where he is responsible for coordinating and maintaining a campus-wide paper pick-up service.