College football lost a legend over the weekend.
The all-time winningest coach in college football history, John Gagliardi, passed away at the age of 91. His family announced the news on Sunday morning.
“What he did here at Carroll College started his legacy. Certainly the 60 years he spent at Saint John’s cemented it, but he’s got a lot of great fanbase here from the days he coached, a number of his former players are around,” said current Carroll head football coach Mike Van Diest. “I believe it was in 2000 they had a 50-year reunion of his team and brought him back with all those great players that played for him. (Former Montana Grizzly and Wyoming Cowboy coach) Joe Glenn and I, I have a picture in my office of Joe, Coach Gagliardi and I. It’s one of my favorite pictures, just an awesome picture, the three of us smiling. You think of the national championships Joe won, what Coach Gagliardi meant to Carroll College, it’s just a great memory. He was a wonderful person and in college football, 489 wins, that’s just amazing.”
Gagliardi began his coaching career at Carroll College in 1949, guiding the Fighting Saints to three Montana Collegiate Conference championships. He compiled a record of 25 wins, five losses and a tie between 1949 and 1952, a winning percentage of 0.808 with the Saints.
He spent the next 59 years at Division III Saint John’s University in Minnesota, adding 464 more wins. Gagliardi retired with a career record of 489-138-11, passing Eddie Robinson in 2003 to become college football’s all-time winningest coach.
Gagliardi won four national championships with Saint John’s. He was inducted into the Carroll College Athletics Hall of Fame in 1973 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
“I offer my deepest condolences to John’s wife, Peggy, his family and friends and the thousands of Saint John’s alumni who played for him,” said SJU President Michael Hemesath in a release. “John Gagliardi was not only an extraordinary coach, he was also an educator of young men and builder of character. 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 Saint John’s University. His is a legacy any educator would be extremely proud of.”
“That’s never going to be matched again,” Van Diest said of Gagliardi’s accomplishments. “I told people, I said, ‘If you put my wins and Coach Bob Petrino’s record together, we’re still 100-something wins behind Coach Gagliardi.’ It’s just unbelievable. What he did for college football, the type of men, there was a great quote in his obituary, his daughter sent me his obituary (Sunday) morning and it said something about, ‘The type of young men he had at Saint John’s and Carroll College, a mirror image of one another that both institutions are very blessed to draw the cream of the crop.’ Football aside, the type of quality and integrity and character these young men had, Coach Gagliardi recognized that at Carroll and he recognized that at Saint John’s.”