College football's top coach does it different

Associated Press Modified: September 14, 2012 at 1:33 pm •  Published: September 14, 2012
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COLLEGEVILLE, Minn. (AP) — Football at St. John's University stands out. There's no tackling at practice or lengthy calisthenics. No whistles or wind sprints. No captains either, unless you count the honor shared by the seniors.

And even though the program's commander, now in his 60th year, has won more games than any other college football coach, there's no calling John Gagliardi "coach."

It's just John.

"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 said, modestly adding: "We seem to have won more than our share of games."

Gagliardi, 85, is 486-133-11 in 64 years of coaching, including a 462-127-10 record in his 60 years at St. John's, making him the nation's all-time winningest coach. And he's done the majority of it at a NCAA Division III school, which doesn't offer athletic scholarships.

"Every one of those games were a great success. Every one of the losses were bitter," Gagliardi said.

His 600th game with St. John's is Saturday, when the Johnnies host rival St. Thomas.

Gagliardi fell into coaching in 1943 when he was just 16, after his high school coach at Trinidad Catholic in Colorado was drafted for World War II. Gagliardi, then 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 has since rolled up 27 conference titles and four national championships — 1963, 1965, 1976 and 2003.

Gagliardi was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006. And since 1993, the outstanding Division III player of the year wins the Gagliardi Trophy.

His coaching methods at this Catholic Benedictine university have evolved into a list of "Nos." Among them: No single way to coach. No goals, just high expectations. No playbooks.

And then there's the no-tackling rule at practice, the most remarkable to outsiders.

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