John Gagliardi

John 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

(Collegeville, MN) ESPN is reporting that the winningest coach in college football had died.  John Gagliardi's daughter Gina Gagliardi Benson announced the former coach's death Sunday morning on Facebook.

Gina wrote, "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."

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. As a rule there were no team captains, unless you count the honor shared by all 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, grandchildren 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.'"

Gagliardi began his college coaching career at Carroll College in Helena, Montana, from 1949 to 1952. He also served as Carroll's basketball coach and had a stint as ice hockey coach at Saint John's.

He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006. Since 1993, the outstanding Division III player of the year has taken home the Gagliardi Trophy.

Benson concluded her message with, "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." 

Perhaps in fitting fashion undefeated St. John's University (5-0) beat formerly unbeaten Bethel University (4-1) 34-16 Saturday to ruin the Royals homecoming.