St.Johns coach John Gagliardi

Saint John's University

John Gagliardi, college football's winningest coach, dies at 91

Listen to Mike Grant tell WCCO radio about the man who won 489 games and four national crowns

October 07, 2018 - 8:49 am

John Gagliardi, who coached St. John's football team to national prominance among small colleges, died Sunday at the age of 61.

His family posted the announcement of Gagliardi's passing on Facebook.

Gagliardi coached the Johnnies for 60 seasons, and won an NCAA-record 489 games before his retirement after the 2012 season.

Under Gagliardi, St. John's won college football national championships in 1963, 1965, 1976 and 2003.

The Johnnies won the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship 27 times under Gagliardi.

"John Gagliardi was not only an extraordinary coach, he was also an educator of young men and builder of character," said St. John's president Michael Hemesath. "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."

His death comes six days before the Johnnies host arch-rival St.Thomas in Collegeville, a game that regularly attracts nearly 20,000 fans to historic Clemens Stadium on the St. John's campus west of St. Cloud.

The Johnnies and Tommies are both unbeaten and ranked nationally headed into the game.

"I'm profoundly sad about John's passing and he was a dear friend," said St. John's athletic director Bob Alpers. "On behalf of Saint John's athletics, our heartfelt condolences to Peggy and the Gagliardi family. There will never be another John. We are forever grateful for his contributions to Saint John's, our student-athletes and the fans of Johnnie football. We're going to miss him." 

Born in Trinidad, Colorado, Gagliardi came to St. John's in 1953, replacing NFL Hall of Famer Johnny "Blood" McNally. He had coached four seasons at Carroll College in Montana.

The NCAA Division III national player of the year trophy is named in Gagliardi's honor. The award was created in 1993.