John Gagliardi

John Gagliardi October 7, 2018

A coach for coaches:

John Gagliardi, the winningest coach in college football history, has died at the age of 91.

Gagliardi’s daughter Gina Gagliardi Benson announced the former coach’s death Sunday morning on Facebook.

“John was a winner in so many ways, but mostly in his ability to connect with others,” she wrote. “His appreciation of others ran so deep that it was the core of who John was.”

Gagliardi started coaching college players in 1949 and spent six decades (1953-2012) at Division III St. John’s University in Minnesota. He retired with a record of 489-138-11 and surpassed Eddie Robinson for the career coaching victories record in 2003, piling up four national titles at St. John’s along the way.

Gagliardi used an unconventional coaching style that included no tackling in practice or lengthy calisthenics. No whistles or wind sprints. There were no team captains either, unless you count the honor shared by the seniors. He insisted that his players just call him John, not coach, at a school that doesn’t offer scholarships.

“John also felt great pride in his own children and his 3000 football players,” his daughter wrote. “John honestly believed every one of his players were wonderful and he spoke often about how proud he was of them all. Not just how well they played football, but the things that mattered most to John: being hard working, successful, good men.

“When asked if he ever had a player he didn’t like, he’d say, ‘No, for some reason St John’s only draws great guys. They were great kids, all of them. From great families. I was lucky to be around them every day. They made me look good.’ And when he talked about their successes he’d say, ‘I don’t think there’s a single one who hasn’t gone on to do great things in whatever field they chose.'”

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