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Legendary College Football Coach Gagliardi Dies at Age 91

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St. John's University head football coach John Gagliardi, right, gives instructions to his players during a workout on Aug. 22, 2012 in Collegeville, Minn. Photo: Jennifer Simonson | MPR 2012

United States Sports Academy |

The United States Sports Academy is mourning the loss of longtime college football coach and Academy honoree John Gagliardi, who achieved great success on and off the field at Saint John’s University (SJU) in Collegeville, Minn.

Gagliardi died at age 91 on Sunday. The all-time winningest coach in college football with 489 victories, Gagliardi was honored with the Academy’s 2003 Amos Alonzo Stagg Coaching Award. The award is presented to an individual who has experienced outstanding achievement as a coach for male teams. The honoree must also exhibit a high standard of propriety, imagination, and innovation as a character-builder in the tradition of great teacher-coaches.

Known for using unconventional coaching methods at SJU, Gagliardi won four national titles in 60 seasons at the small private university in Minnesota. Gagliardi’s policy was to not cut players from the roster and his team practices were known to be non-strenuous, never lasting more than 90 minutes.

Gagliardi passed Grambling’s Eddie Robinson for all-time coaching victories with win No. 409 in 2003 before retiring in 2012. He coached 113 All-Americans and 22 Academic All-Americans during his SJU tenure. He was inducted into 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. “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.”

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