SJU's John Gagliardi retires as college football's all-time wins leader

11/19/2012 -


COLLEGEVILLE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) said goodbye to its most successful - and longest tenured - coach Monday when legendary Saint John's University Head Football Coach John Gagliardi announced his retirement. Gagliardi retires after 60 years as the Johnnies' head coach - 64 overall as a head coach - and his 489 career wins are the most in the history of college football.

Though Gagliardi's career will often be defined by his numbers and records - including 489 career wins, 27 MIAC championships, four national titles, 638 games and 64 years as a collegiate head coach - those around the conference will also remember his tenure for his coaching philosophies, humor and the way he cared for his student-athletes.

"Coach Gagliardi's influence on MIAC football has been tremendous and impressive, spanning across the past seven decades," said Dan McKane, MIAC executive director. "He established a winning tradition that set numerous records, positively influenced thousands of student-athletes and won 27 MIAC championships as well as four national titles.

"The MIAC was lucky to have a living legend coaching in our conference. His presence will be greatly missed after 60 wonderful years on the sidelines."

"I doubt anyone has or will impact a sport in the MIAC as much as John has over 60 years," added St. Thomas Athletic Director Steve Fritz.

Gagliardi retires with a career record of 489-138-11 (.775), including a 465-132-10 (.774) record at SJU and a 362-99-9 (.780) record in MIAC games. Gagliardi guided the Johnnies to 27 conference championships in his 60 seasons in Collegeville. Available records are incomplete, but Gagliardi was voted MIAC Coach-of-the-Year at least nine times, with the most recent honor coming in 2009 after his 27th MIAC title. He also earned the conference's top coaching honor in 1982, 1985, 1994, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2003 and 2005.

In 2006, Gagliardi became the first active head coach to be inducted into the College Football 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 based on the basis of excellence in athletics, academics and community service. Gagliardi received the American Football Coaches' Association (AFCA) Amos Alonzo Stagg Award in 2009, and he was named the 2007 Liberty Mutual Division III Coach-of-the-Year.


Saint John's won national championships in 1963, 1965, 1976 and 2003, and also reached the title game in 2000. His teams advanced to the semifinals six additional times. The 2003 championship season was particularly special, as Gagliardi surpassed former Grambling State head coach Eddie Robinson as college football's all-time wins leader on Nov. 8, 2003, en route to a perfect 14-0 season and the national title.

He also broke Robinson's record of 588 career games coaches, finishing with a total of 638 on the sidelines. Gagliardi's 1993 team set a record for all divisions by averaging 61.5 points per game. His 64 years are the most ever by a collegiate head football coach, surpassing the previous record of 57 yards by Amos Alonzo Stagg (University of Chicago and University of the Pacific, 1890-1946).

Gagliardi also served as Saint John's athletic director from 1976-94, and was the head coach for Saint John's track and field and hockey teams during his career as well. He was inducted into the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACA) Hall of Fame in June, 2006. He began his college coaching career with four seasons at Carroll College (Mont.), and he has been the subject of several books, including, "The Sweet Season" by Sports Illustrated's Austin Murphy in 2001. Gagliardi has been featured by the Wall Street Journal, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, USA Today and many more national publications and TV shows.

Throughout his career, Gagliardi's coaching philosophies have been well-documented for their focus on student-athlete well-being, and creating a culture of fun and high expectations. His coaching methods have been distilled into a series of "Winning with No's," which were unveiled in the 1960s and his philosophies include no tackling in practice, no whistles, no blocking sleds or dummies, no long practices, and no calling him, "Coach." Instead, his players have simply called him, "John," for more than six decades.

"I have had the utmost respect for what [Gagliardi] has been able to do at SJU," said Concordia College Head Football coach Terry Horan. "I have always enjoyed competing against his teams as a player and coach, not only because of the high level of football being played, but more important the type of young men that were representing SJU were second-to-none. This is a direct reflection of the man in charge."

"When I think of Coach Gagliardi, wins and losses are not the first thing that comes to mind," added St. Olaf Athletic Director Matt McDonald. "I think of the countless lives crossing many generations that he has touched over the years at Saint John's.

"The impact he has had on Saint John's and the MIAC is immeasurable."

The Johnnies success under Gagliardi's watch has created an incredible game-day atmosphere in Collegeville and a remarkably dedicated fan base, as Saint John's has finished first in Division III football attendance in 10 of the past 11 seasons. The Johnnies routinely draw more fans than roughly half of the Division I FCS teams, and most of the Division II teams. "The following he created of Johnnie fans is something that we all envied over the years," Fritz said.

The search for Gagliardi's replacement - Saint John's first head football coaching search since 1953 - will begin immediately.

Saint John's Sports Information contributed to this report.

| Saint John's Press Release | John Gagliardi Bio |