The family of the legendary John Gagliardi announced this morning that the longtime head coach of St. John’s, and the winningest head coach in the history of college football, has sadly passed at the age of 91.
Gagliardi, who coached college football for an incredible 64 seasons – 60 of those leading the St. John’s (D-III – MN) program – stepped down from the Johnnies top spot back in 2012 having amassed 489 wins. That win total is precisely 80 more games than Joe Paterno won, and 81 more games than Grambling State legend Eddie Robinson.
After six seasons at the high school level, Gagliardi was named head coach at Carroll College (NAIA – MT at 22 years old. While at Carroll, beginning in 1949 and going through 1952, Gagliardi compiled a 24-6-1 mark with three conference titles. He then embarked on a 60-year journey leading St. John’s, where he led the program to unprecedented success, including four national titles, 27 conference titles, and an incredible streak of .500 or above seasons dating from 1973-2012
Just as Gagliardi is well known in the coaching profession for his on-field success, his practice approach also garnered a lot of attention. Long before the modern-day concerns for player safety, Gagliardi’s unique coaching philosophy of “Winning with No’s” was both unconventional, and wildly successful. That philosophy included not tackling at practice, not carrying a whistle, limiting practices to 90 minutes, not requiring lifting for his guys, and no blocking sleds. At the time, many coaches raised a brow at the approach, but today many coaches have adopted some of Gagliardi’s beliefs and brought them into the mainstream.
While carving out his own path, Gagliardi blazed a future trail for the coaching profession that many of us continue to carry on today.
“I offer my deepest condolences to John’s wife, Peggy, his family and friends and the thousands of Saint John’s alumni who played for him,” said SJU President Michael Hemesath. “John Gagliardi was not only an extraordinary coach, he was also an educator of young men and builder of character. John inspired deep and enduring loyalty and passion among his players across the decades because he taught them lessons through the medium of football that served them well in their personal and professional lives long after graduating from Saint John’s University. His is a legacy any educator would be extremely proud of.”
Please join us in praying for his family, and the countless lives he touched during his long and prestigious coaching career, and time on earth.