College football's winningest coach Gagliardi retires

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — John Gagliardi, the winningest coach in college football history, announced his retirement Monday from

Division III St. John's University in Minnesota.

The 86-year-old Gagliardi coached for 64

years, 60 of them at the private school in central Minnesota, and

retires with a

record of 489-138-11 (77.5 winning percentage). He surpassed Eddie

Robinson for the career coaching victories record in 2003

and won four national titles at St. John's.

Gagliardi's decision comes after the

Johnnies finished a rough season with a 5-5 record and went 3-5 in the

Minnesota Intercollegiate

Athletic Conference.

"Seventy years is a long time to be doing

the same job," Gagliardi said in a statement posted on the school's

website. "Luckily,

I've always been blessed with great players, friends, family and

support to make it this far. Nobody ever said that getting

older was easy. I just can't do the job at the level I used to


He gained fame for an unconventional

coaching style that included no tackling in practice or lengthy

calisthenics. No whistles

or wind sprints. There were not team captains either, unless you

count the honor shared by the seniors. He insisted that his

players just call him John, not coach, at a school that doesn't

offer scholarships.

"It has always been my way of doing things and it's more solidified than ever as the years go by ... because it's proven to

be successful for us, and we think we've prevented a lot of injuries," Gagliardi told The Associated Press as this season

began. "We seem to have won more than our share of games."

Gagliardi wound up coaching earlier than

most, in 1943 when he was just 16. His high school coach at Trinidad

Catholic in

Colorado was drafted for World War II and Gagliardi, a team

captain, took over and wound up coaching there and at St. Mary's

High School in Colorado Springs for six years.

In 1949, he got his first college gig at

Carroll College in Helena, Mont., leading the team to three conference

titles in

four seasons. He took the reins at St. John's in 1953, and piled

up 27 conference titles and national championships in 1963,

1965, 1976 and 2003. 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.

"Arguably, John Gagliardi has impacted the

lives of as many young men as any individual in the history of Saint

John's University,"

school President Michael Hemesath said. "His legacy of educating

young men at Saint John's is one that any coach or professor

would envy."

The school said Gagliardi's 64 years were the most in college football history, surpassing the record of 57 years held by

former University of Chicago and University of the Pacific coach Amos Alonzo Stagg.

Gagliardi's coaching methods at the Catholic Benedictine university was, in many ways, a list of "Nos." No single way to coach.

No goals, just high expectations. No playbooks. And that no-tackling rule at practice.

On the quiet campus 80 miles northwest of

Minneapolis, the bookstore sells T-shirts with pictures of Gagliardi


his coaching career and the word "Legend." There is no statue of

Gagliardi on St. John's campus, which is nestled amid prairies,

lakes and forest and encloses an abbey. Yet.

Gagliardi will remain on the staff until his contract expires June 30, 2013. The search process for his replacement begins


"Today is another milestone for the greatest

head coach in the history of college football," athletic director Tom

Stock said.

"I witnessed him spending his days passionately doing what he

loved, coaching college football and mentoring young men. And,

because it was such a passion for him, no one has ever done or

will ever do it better."