MINNEAPOLIS – John Gagliardi, the winningest coach in college football history, is retiring from Division III St. John’s (Minn.).
Gagliardi, 86, announced his decision on the team website on Monday. He coached for 64 years, 60 of them at the private school in central Minnesota, and retires with a record of 489-138-11. He surpassed Eddie Robinson for the career coaching victories record in 2003 and won four national titles at St. John’s.
He gained fame for an unconventional coaching style that included no tackling in practice.
Gagliardi’s decision comes after the Johnnies finished a rough season with a 5-5 record and went 3-5 in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. He says in a statement that he “just can’t do the job at the level” he once did.
Gagliardi coached four national championship teams (1963, 1965, 1976 and 2003), and made the 2000 national title game. Gagliardi’s teams won 30 conference titles (including three at Carroll, Mont.) and appeared in 58 postseason games.
In the past 44 years, SJU was nationally ranked 43 times and owned a 39-19 postseason record. In 1993, SJU averaged 61.5 points per game, setting an all-divisions record.
“Seventy years [60 at SJU] is a long time to be doing the same job,” Gagliardi said. “Luckily, I’ve always been blessed with great players, friends, family and support to make it this far.
“Nobody ever said that getting older was easy. I just can’t do the job at the level I used to anymore.”
The first active head coach to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and the 2009 American Football Coaches’ Association Amos Alonzo Stagg Award recipient, Gagliardi ended his record 64th season as with a 465-132-10 record at SJU, including a 362-99-9 mark in Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference games.
“Today is another milestone for the greatest head coach in the history of college football,” SJU Athletic Director Tom Stock said. “We are so very happy and proud of John, and those of us who have been associated with him are so fortunate that he chose to spend his life and career at Saint John’s, building a model NCAA Division III football program.
“I witnessed him spending his days passionately doing what he loved, coaching college football and mentoring young men. And, because it was such a passion for him, no one has ever done or will ever do it better.”
The 2007 DIII coach of the year, Gagliardi broke the all-time collegiate win record, held by former Grambling State head coach Eddie Robinson, on Nov. 8, 2003, en route to a perfect 14-0 season and an DIII championship, one of four national titles Gagliardi won at SJU. He also eclipsed Robinson’s record for the most games coached in college football (588) in 2008 and coached his 600th game in 2009.
Gagliardi’s 64 years of collegiate coaching surpassed the previous record of 57 years held by Stagg, who coached at the University of Chicago and University of the Pacific from 1890 to 1946.
Gagliardi’s coaching career began when his high school coach at Trinidad (Colo.) Catholic was drafted into World War II. As the team’s captain, Gagliardi took the reins at 16 in 1943. His teams won four conference titles in six years of coaching high school at Trinidad Catholic and later, at St. Mary’s in Colorado Springs.
After graduation from Colorado College in 1949, Gagliardi began his first college coaching position at Carroll College in Helena, Mont. The college explored the possibility of dropping football because of losing seasons and lack of interest. Gagliardi led Carroll to three conference titles in his first four seasons and won conference championships as head coach of the basketball and baseball programs.
His success caught the attention of Saint John’s, which needed a coach to succeed the legendary Johnny “Blood” McNally, a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Compared to Carroll, the SJU football program was healthy before Gagliardi’s arrival, but not exactly thriving. SJU had not won a conference title in 15 years.
Gagliardi took over the program in 1953. Meanwhile, Blood offered this gloomy prediction: “Nobody could ever win at Saint John’s.” Gagliardi proved McNally wrong by winning the MIAC title that fall.
Aside from the football field, Gagliardi also won two conference championships with SJU’s track team and coached the SJU hockey team for five seasons from 1954-59, compiling a 42-25-1 record. The .625 winning percentage is still the best of any hockey coach in school history.
In addition to his various head coaching duties, Gagliardi has also been athletic director at both Carroll (1949-53) and Saint John’s (1976-94). In June 2006, Gagliardi was inducted into the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics Hall of Fame.
In 1993, Josten’s and the SJU J-Club unveiled the Gagliardi Trophy, which is awarded to the nation’s outstanding Division III player on the basis of excellence in athletics, academics and community service.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
|1949||Carroll (Mont.)||5-1-0||.833||1981||Saint John’s (Minn.)||7-2-0||.778|
|1950||Carroll (Mont.)||5-2-0||.714||1982||Saint John’s (Minn.)||9-1-0||.900|
|1951||Carroll (Mont.)||6-1-1||.812||1983||Saint John’s (Minn.)||7-4-0||.636|
|1952||Carroll (Mont.)||8-2-0||.800||1984||Saint John’s (Minn.)||6-3-0||.667|
|1953||Saint John’s (Minn.)||6-2-0||.750||1985||Saint John’s (Minn.)||8-2-0||.800|
|1954||Saint John’s (Minn.)||6-2-0||.750||1986||Saint John’s (Minn.)||4-4-1||.500|
|1955||Saint John’s (Minn.)||7-2-0||.778||1987||Saint John’s (Minn.)||8-3-0||.727|
|1956||Saint John’s (Minn.)||3-4-1||.438||1988||Saint John’s (Minn.)||7-2-0||.778|
|1957||Saint John’s (Minn.)||5-3-0||.625||1989||Saint John’s (Minn.)||10-1-1||.875|
|1958||Saint John’s (Minn.)||6-2-0||.750||1990||Saint John’s (Minn.)||7-3-0||.700|
|1959||Saint John’s (Minn.)||5-3-0||.625||1991||Saint John’s (Minn.)||11-1-0||.917|
|1960||Saint John’s (Minn.)||4-3-1||.562||1992||Saint John’s (Minn.)||8-1-1||.850|
|1961||Saint John’s (Minn.)||6-2-0||.750||1993||Saint John’s (Minn.)||12-1-0||.923|
|1962||Saint John’s (Minn.)||9-0-0||1.000||1994||Saint John’s (Minn.)||11-2-0||.846|
|1963||Saint John’s (Minn.)||10-0-0||1.000||1995||Saint John’s (Minn.)||8-1-1||.850|
|1964||Saint John’s (Minn.)||4-3-0||.571||1996||Saint John’s (Minn.)||11-1-0||.917|
|1965||Saint John’s (Minn.)||11-0-0||1.000||1997||Saint John’s (Minn.)||6-4-0||.600|
|1966||Saint John’s (Minn.)||4-3-1||.562||1998||Saint John’s (Minn.)||11-1-0||.917|
|1967||Saint John’s (Minn.)||3-5-0||.375||1999||Saint John’s (Minn.)||11-2-0||.846|
|1968||Saint John’s (Minn.)||6-4-0||.600||2000||Saint John’s (Minn.)||13-2-0||.867|
|1969||Saint John’s (Minn.)||8-1-1||850||2001||Saint John’s (Minn.)||11-3-0||.786|
|1970||Saint John’s (Minn.)||6-3-0||.667||2002||Saint John’s (Minn.)||12-2-0||.857|
|1971||Saint John’s (Minn.)||8-1-0||.889||2003||Saint John’s (Minn.)||14-0-0||1.000|
|1972||Saint John’s (Minn.)||7-2-0||.778||2004||Saint John’s (Minn.)||7-3-0||.700|
|1973||Saint John’s (Minn.)||4-4-0||.500||2005||Saint John’s (Minn.)||11-1-0||.917|
|1974||Saint John’s (Minn.)||7-2-0||.778||2006||Saint John’s (Minn.)||11-2-0||.846|
|1975||Saint John’s (Minn.)||8-1-1||.850||2007||Saint John’s (Minn.)||10-2-0||.833|
|1976||Saint John’s (Minn.)||10-0-1||.955||2008||Saint John’s (Minn.)||8-3-0||.727|
|1977||Saint John’s (Minn.)||7-2-0||.778||2009||Saint John’s (Minn.)||10-1-0||.909|
|1978||Saint John’s (Minn.)||6-3-0||.667||2010||Saint John’s (Minn.)||7-3-0||.700|
|1979||Saint John’s (Minn.)||7-2-0||.778||2011||Saint John’s (Minn.)||6-4-0||.600|
|1980||Saint John’s (Minn.)||5-3-0||.625||2012||Saint John’s (Minn.)||5-5-0||.500|
|Red denotes national championship — NAIA: 1963, 1965; NCAA Division III: 1976, 2003.|
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