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San José State Football Legend Claude Gilbert Passes Away at 91


GRASS VALLEY, Calif. - San José State football legend Claude Gilbert passed away at the age of 91 on Jan. 6, 2024 after a long battle with lung cancer. Gilbert is the only San José State University football player to earn a varsity letter, be named a team captain, later return as an assistant coach and then also be named head coach. 

“I am saddened to hear of the passing of a Spartan coaching legend, Claude Gilbert," said Director of Athletics Jeff Konya. "He was a foundational and transcendent coach for the Spartans in the long history of San José State football. Our collective thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during this difficult time.”

Gilbert played for the Spartans from 1957-58, then was an assistant coach from 1981-83 and head coach from 1984-89. He had a pair of 10-2 seasons in 1986 and '87 en route to winning the Big West conference. The Spartans defeated Miami (OH) in the 1986 California Bowl, 37-7. 

"Claude Gilbert was such a special man, coach, and Spartan," said head football coach Brent Brennan. "He was a great leader and a true winner. The stories of his coaching years at SJSU are legendary and when I came back as the head coach he was always there for me. I will miss his funny stories and his amazing authenticity. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and all that knew and loved him."

Gilbert was inducted in the CEFCU Stadium Ring of Honor in 2006. In his six seasons as SJSU's head coach, Gilbert compiled a 38-30-1 overall record. He currently ranks second all-time in SJSU history in wins.

The 1959 San José State graduate is enshrined in the San José State Sports Hall of Fame, San Diego State Hall of Fame, the Bob Elias Kern County Sports Hall of Fame, the Shafter (CA) High School Hall of Fame and the Breitbard Hall of Fame. 

The family requests privacy at this time. Please reach out to Sky Kerstein ( for all media requests.