College football's winningest coach retires
"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."
His retirement even drew praise from the White House with press secretary Jay Carney lauding Gagliardi's career and unique approach to the job.
"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," the statement read.
"Maybe I ought to change my vote," Gagliardi quipped.
Gagliardi's 64 years were the most in college football coaching history, surpassing the record of 57 years held by former University of Chicago and University of the Pacific coach Amos Alonzo Stagg.
Linneman said Gagliardi's trust in his players — he lets his quarterback call his own plays — is what endeared the coach to his pupils more than the easy-going nature in practice or resistance to calisthenics.
"I can talk to a guy who graduated in 1953 and we can have a mutually agreeable conversation because we have the same stories," Linneman said. "That's amazing. You have 60 years of football players tied together by playing for the same coach. There's not a fraternity like Johnnies football."
On the quiet campus 80 miles northwest of Minneapolis, the bookstore sells T-shirts with pictures of Gagliardi throughout 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 immediately.
And Gagliardi has a search of his own to begin. He said he doesn't know what he's going to do without the job that has in many ways defined him for three quarters of his life.
"It's unchartered territory for me," Gagliardi said. "Who knows what I'm going to face?"
He is looking forward to getting up in the stands at Clemens Stadium to see the view he's been missing all these years.
"I'll get up there and know everything," he deadpanned, "just like the fans always seem to do."
Associated Press Writer Amy Forliti contributed to this report.