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Winningest College Football Coach in History Dies

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

Gagliardi coached for 63 years, compiling a record of 489-138-11. Most of those wins came at Division III St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, where was head coach from 1953 until 2012. Gagliardi won two NCAA Division III national championships and two NAIA national championships at St. John’s.

He began his coaching career at Carroll College in Helena, Montana, in 1949.

It is with great sadness that the Gagliardi family announces the death of John Gagliardi. John was a winner in so many…

Posted by Coach John Gagliardi on Sunday, October 7, 2018

“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,” his daughter, Gina Gagliardi Benson, wrote Sunday on Facebook.

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“Without a doubt, John’s greatest pride was always his wife Peggy. He was a great role model of what true love is,” she wrote. “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.”

Gagliardi won his 409th game in 2003 to surpass Grambling’s Eddie Robinson as the winningest coach in college football history. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2016.

“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,” his daughter wrote.

She made a plea to people on behalf of her father.

“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,” she wrote.

“God Bless, John Gagliardi.”

His greatness is memorialized in the Gagliardi Trophy, which is awarded to the best Division III college football player every year.

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“John Gagliardi was not only an extraordinary coach, he was also an educator of young men and builder of character,” St. John’s president Michael Hemesath said in a statement, reported ESPN.

“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 St. John’s University. His is a legacy any educator would be extremely proud of,” Hernesath added.

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Dave is a lifelong sports fan who has been writing for The Wildcard since 2017. He has been a writer for more than 20 years for a variety of publications.
Dave has been writing about sports for The Wildcard since 2017. He's been a reporter and editor for over 20 years, covering everything from sports to financial news. In addition to writing for The Wildcard, Dave has covered mutual funds for Pensions and Investments, meetings and conventions, money market funds, personal finance, associations, and he currently covers financial regulations and the energy sector for Macallan Communications. He has won awards for both news and sports reporting.
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