WASHINGTON — St. John’s University football coach John Gagliardi, the winningest coach in college football history, announced his retirement on Monday, after 60 years at the helm of the Johnnies football team.
His retirement earned the rarest of commendations: a statement from the White House.
Via White House press secretary Jay Carney:
On behalf of the President, I want to congratulate John Gagliardi on his retirement as the winningest coach in college football history.
Over the course of 64 seasons – 60 of them at his beloved Saint John’s – Gagliardi’s 486 wins put him among the greatest to ever coach the game. With a career that began as a 16-year-old after his high school coach was called to serve in World War II, Gagliardi was never the most conventional figure. He instructed his players to call him “John” instead of “Coach,” and in turn, called each of his more than 100 players by their first names. His refusal to allow tackling in practice and his insistence that players make class before practice also became the stuff of legend. But the unusual methods worked – earning St. John’s four national championships. And even as his time on the gridiron comes to a close, Gagliardi’s genuine concern for players as scholar athletes and human beings will ensure that his influence will be felt for years to come.
Devin Henry can be reached at email@example.com