Legendary St. John's coach John Gagliardi retires

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John Gagliardi became a head coach when his high school's coach was drafted into World War II in 1943. He played at Colorado College and coached at Carroll (Mont.) after graduation. His first season at St. John's was 1953.
d3photography.com file photo by Tim Ward

After 64 years as a head coach and at 86 years of age, St. John's legendary football coach John Gagliardi has announced his retirement.

Gagliardi, who has been at St. John's since 1953, goes out as the winningest coach in college football history. He finishes with a 489-138-11 record overall, a .775 winning percentage, and four national titles, two of them in Division III.

“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.”

St. John's finished this season 5-5, 3-5 in the MIAC, after ending its 2012 season with a 27-22 loss Nov. 10 at Bethel.

Gagliardi will remain on staff until his current contract expires June 30, 2013. The search process for his replacement begins immediately.

"Arguably, John Gagliardi has impacted the lives of as many young men as any individual in the history of Saint John's University,” SJU president Michael Hemesath said.

John Gagliardi and the Johnnies celebrate the 1976 Division III football national championship.

“His legacy of educating young men at Saint John's is one that any coach or professor would envy.

"The kind of loyalty and commitment John showed to Saint John's and his student-athletes is rare and exemplary. It is an example of how John modeled good character and ethical behavior for his student-athletes and the community for 60 years."

The first active head coach to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame (Class of 2006) and the 2009 American Football Coaches' Association Amos Alonzo Stagg Award recipient, Gagliardi (Guh-lahr-dee) ended his record 64th season as a collegiate head football coach and 60th season as head coach of the Johnnies this fall. Gagliardi ends his storied career with a 489-138-11 (.775) collegiate record and a 465-132-10 (.774) record at SJU, including a 362-99-9 (.780) record in Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference games.

Gagliardi's 64 years of collegiate coaching is the most in college football history, surpassing the old record of 57 years held by former University of Chicago and University of the Pacific coach Amos Alonzo Stagg (1890-1946).

“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.

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