COLLEGEVILLE, Minn. -- John Gagliardi, who won more college football games than any coach in history, turning St. John’s into a powerhouse, has died Sunday, Oct. 7, at the age of 91.
Gagliardi won 489 games in his 64 seasons, 60 of them leading the Johnnies. He won four national championships, in 1963 and 1965 (NAIA), and 1976 and 2003 (NCAA Division III), before retiring in 2012.
Gagliardi broke Grambling State coach Eddie Robinson’s record for most collegiate wins (408) on Nov. 1, 2003, during his last run to a national title. After being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006, he later broke Robinson’s record for most games coached (588) on Sept. 20, 2008.
Gagliardi’s daughter, Gina, posted the announcement of her father’s death on Facebook, co-signing the names of her siblings Jimmy Gagliardi, Johnny Gagliardi and Nancy Gagliardi Little:
“It is with great sadness that the Gagliardi family announces the death of John Gagliardi.
John was a winner in so many ways, but mostly in his ability to connect with others. His appreciation of others ran so deep that it was the core of who John was.
Without a doubt, John’s greatest pride was always his wife Peggy. He was a great role model of what true love is.
John also felt great pride in his own children, grandchildren and his 3,000 football players. 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.”
John was never jealous of people who made more money or were more successful. He always appreciated success.
I was lucky to be John’s daughter because he only saw the good in me all of my life, no matter what. That kind of attitude brings out the best in everyone. It was an honor to take care of him as he aged because he remained that way to the end.
John was the son of Italian immigrants. His father was a blacksmith and later became an auto-body man who attended daily mass and devoted his free time to his church. His mother raised 9 children and shared John’s love of laughter and conversation.
Growing up in the Great Depression, John was part of “The Greatest Generation” in a way we may never see again. There was no jealousy of others…only appreciation for what little they had and what their neighbors achieved or had. Things never mattered to John or his generation. People were the real treasures in life.
Although John was a private person and enjoyed his time alone with his family, John liked people and always saw the good in everyone.
In honor of John, today make an effort to do what was effortless for John: Compliment your spouse many, many times today; listen intently to others; and “Be interested, not interesting.” See the best in others.
God Bless, John Gagliardi