The best coach you’ve never heard of

Joe Frye, IV Leader columnist

Quick question sports fans: Who is the all-time leader in wins when it comes to college football? Joe Paterno? No. Bobby Bowden? Good guess but no, sorry. It has to be Bear Bryant right? Strike three, you’re out. It is actually little-known Division III coach John Gagliardi. Gagliardi recently just retired from coaching football at St. John’s College in Minnesota, a Division III powerhouse. He ended his career with 489 wins and no one knew who he was until he retired at the age of 86. If you still don’t know this guy, do some research his story is pretty incredible.
When he was sixteen years old, Gagliardi began coaching football at his high school. He became a player-coach and would then go on to coach for seventy more years. The most intriguing point in this story is his coaching style: “Winning with No’s”. A Gagliardi practice consists of zero tackling, yes you read that write they do not tackle at any football practice. Also, there aren’t any routine drills like running forty yard dashes, or hitting the blocking sheds time and time again. Gagliardi doesn’t even wear a whistle and after a 90 minute practice weight lifting and training is optional. Such a polar opposite approach to college football actually is what brought Gagliardi all of his success at St.John’s.
The coach is in the hall of fame, and has the Division III “Heisman Trophy” named after him but once again, why do we not know who this guy is? This grandpa has dominated college football for 60 years and we barely know his name. Granted, he does coach a lower division of football that is not as popular as highly touted college football teams and state universities. He has won 4 national championships and had the pleasure of being able to coach three grandsons throughout his career. It is one of the feel-good stories in sports, and there will probably never be another story like it. This great coach is finally retiring and we need to celebrate an elaborate career.
The last thing I want to see is this man finally getting the recognition he deserves, at his funeral. He could easily be touted the greatest coach in college football history, but never will because he coaches in a smaller division. Let’s give this man credit and recognize him as a great coach and more importantly, a great man.