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Winningest coach in NCAA history retires, gets POTUS shout-out

John Gagliardi AP

It’s not often that we look outside the FBS level, but John Gagliardi is the exception to a whole hell of a lot of rules.

The 86-year-old Gagliardi has spent the past six decades as the head coach at Div. III St. John’s (Minn.) University.  Including the four years he’d spent previously at Carroll (Mont.) College, Gagliardi has won an NCAA all-divisions record 489 games.

On Monday, the legendary coach announced he is stepping down as head coach, his 60th year at the school and 64th coaching at the collegiate level.  Counting a six-year high school career that began when he was just 16, Gagliardi has spent exactly seven decades on the sidelines.

“Seventy years is a long time to be doing the same job,” Gagliardi said in a statement. “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.”

In addition to the collegiate record for wins, Gagliardi’s teams also won two NAIA national championships, two Div. III national championships and 30 conference championships, with 27 of them coming at St. John’s.

The resume’ is so impressive, in fact, that the most powerful man in the free world took the time to acknowledge what Gagliardi’s meant to the sport and his players past and present.

“Over the course of 64 seasons – 60 of them at his beloved Saint John’s – Gagliardi’s 486 wins put him among the greatest to ever coach the game,” read the statement released through the White House by President Barack Obama.  “With a career that began as a 16-year-old after his high school coach was called to serve in World War II, Gagliardi was never the most conventional figure.  He instructed his players to call him “John” instead of “Coach,” and in turn, called each of his more than 100 players by their first names.  His refusal to allow tackling in practice and his insistence that players make class before practice also became the stuff of legend.

“But the unusual methods worked – earning St. John’s four national championships.  And even as his time on the gridiron comes to a close, Gagliardi’s genuine concern for players as scholar athletes and human beings will ensure that his influence will be felt for years to come.”

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11 Responses to “Winningest coach in NCAA history retires, gets POTUS shout-out”
  1. cometkazie says: Nov 20, 2012 10:39 AM

    That’s real football.

    Congratulations, coach.

  2. friarjack61 says: Nov 20, 2012 10:40 AM

    A coach interested in a players education. This is a perfect example of a man who works with boys, and helps to guide them to becoming smart young men. Coach Gagliardi, has never lost his view that his players are in school to earn a degree, and participate in athletics while doing so. His credo should be revered and understood by all university presidents and athletic directors.
    Congratulations on a wonderful coaching career, your service to our Country, and enjoy the days of your retirement.

  3. tundratommy says: Nov 20, 2012 10:56 AM

    Proud parent of a Johnnie here. With limited contact during practices, Coach Gagliardi has implemented a system that I anticipate more football programs will gravitate to. Virtually all of his players graduate from this outstanding school and experience success after. IMO – one of the greatest colleges in the country!!!

  4. hovenaut says: Nov 20, 2012 11:00 AM

    Just applause…….congratulations Coach.

  5. whitdog23 says: Nov 20, 2012 11:12 AM

    Football played the right way! Hard and legal

  6. goodellisruiningtheleague says: Nov 20, 2012 12:38 PM

    How bout Obama focuses on the Palestine attacks in the middle east rather than basketball.

  7. earpaniac says: Nov 20, 2012 1:38 PM

    Just think how many boys he helped turn into men in that time! Way to go Coach!

  8. dannymac17 says: Nov 20, 2012 6:50 PM

    Congrats, John.

  9. seamus0317 says: Nov 20, 2012 7:24 PM

    You’re an idiot goodellisruining the league!

  10. igottz5onit says: Nov 21, 2012 7:12 AM

    Really wish some more coaches would learn from this guy. Almost brings a tear to your eye hearing about this kind of greatness.

  11. sbuel2 says: Nov 21, 2012 8:05 AM

    A coach who found something he loved early and his goals were extended to his players.

    The second good coach with a long career to retire, Tom Osbourne from Nebraska has one of the highest graduation rates, most all american academic players, and started a mentoring program that follows youth thru college and now extending past college.

    These good men came from an era of honor, belief in raising boys to men with good values and a career beyond sports.

    What a long term of good works and a winning record the right way for this coach

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