Honors continue to pile up for Trinidad native and college football coaching legend John Gagliardi, who was recently announced by Minnesota newspaper, the Star Tribune, as a 2019 inductee into the Minnesota Sports Hall of Fame.
Gagliardi started coaching football in 1943 while he was still in high school. As a senior, he became the coach at Trinidad Catholic high school after the team’s coach was drafted into military service. He coached the Trinidad Catholic team for four years before becoming the coach at a high school in Colorado Springs. He coached Colorado Springs St. Mary’s for two years while earning a college degree from Colorado College.
In 1953, he was hired by St. John’s, a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III football program in Minnesota and lead the “Johnnies” to 27 conference championships. The Johnnies won four national championships under Gagliardi — the NAIA championship in 1963 and 1965 and NCAA Division III titles in 1976 and 2003.
Gagliardi became the winningest coach in college football history in 2003 with his 409th victory — surpassing Grambling’s Eddie Robinson and was named to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006. Gagliardi and Florida State coach Bobby Bowden were the first active coaches to be named to the Hall of Fame. In 1993, the Gagliardi Trophy was unveiled. It is presented annually to the NCAA Division III player of the year.
Gagliardi’s unconventional coaching style is described as the “winning with no” philosophy. It includes no tackling, or whistles in practice. He also refused to cut players and always requested that his players call him “John” instead of “coach.” He said he operated with one basic team rule: “the Golden Rule — treat everybody like you’d like to be treated yourself.”
Gagliardi died in 2018 at age 91.
The Star Tribune reported that members of the Gagliardi family will be in attendance in his honor on Dec. 11 at the Minnesota Sports Awards to be held in Minneapolis.