John Gagliardi Named 2009 Recipient of Amos Alonzo Stagg Award
John Gagliardi, the winningest coach in college football history, will has been named the 2009 recipient of AFCA’s Amos Alonzo Stagg Award.
The award, which honors those “whose services have been outstanding in the advancement of the best interests of football,” will be presented to the longtime St. John’s (Minn.) head coach at the AFCA Awards Luncheon on January 13 during the 2009 AFCA Convention in Nashville, Tenn.
“It is truly humbling to receive this award. The past recipients are my heroes and a group in which I never dreamed of belonging.”
The first active head coach to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame (Class of 2006) and the 2003 AFCA Division III National Coach of the Year, Gagliardi is in his record 60th season as a collegiate head football coach and 56th season as head coach in Collegeville.
The winningest coach all-time in college football history, Gagliardi has a 455-123-11 (.782) collegiate career record and a 431-117-10 (.782) record at St. John’s. Gagliardi’s 60 years of collegiate coaching is the most in college football history, surpassing the old record of 57 years held by former University of Chicago and University of the Pacific coach Amos Alonzo Stagg (1890-1946).
Gagliardi tied the all-time collegiate win record, held by former Grambling State head coach Eddie Robinson, on Nov. 1, 2003 and broke the all-time record on Nov. 8, 2003 on the way to a perfect 14-0 season and an NCAA Division III championship.
Gagliardi’s coaching career began when his high school coach at Trinidad (Colo.) Catholic was drafted into World War II, Gagliardi, as captain, took over the reins at the age of 16 in 1943. His teams won four conference titles in Gagliardi’s six years of coaching high school at Trinidad Catholic and St. Mary’s in Colorado Springs.
After graduation from Colorado College in 1949, his first college coaching position was at Carroll College in Helena, Mont. The college was thinking about dropping football because of losing seasons and lack of interest.
Gagliardi led Carroll to three conference titles in his first four seasons as a college coach. Gagliardi coached basketball and baseball and also won championships.
His success caught the attention of Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minn. Saint John’s needed a coach to succeed the legendary Johnny “Blood” McNally, a charter member of the Professional Football Hall of Fame.
Compared to Carroll, Saint John’s football program was healthy before Gagliardi’s arrival but not exactly thriving. SJU had not won a conference title in 15 years. Gagliardi took over the program in 1953 with a mandate to turn the program around.
Once again, Gagliardi surprised the skeptics by winning the MIAC title that fall. He also won championships with SJU’s track team, and he also coached the SJU hockey team for five seasons, compiling a 42-25-1 record, which is still the best career winning percentage of any hockey coach in school history.
After 55 seasons, Gagliardi’s teams still set the standard for MIAC competitors. He has coached four national championship teams (1963, 1965, 1976 and 2003), and made the 2000 national title game. His teams have reached the national semifinals as well in 1989, 1991, 1993, 1994, 2001 and 2002. In 2001, Gagliardi became only the third coach in NCAA college football history to coach 500 career games.
As a collegiate coach Gagliardi’s teams have won 28 conference titles, including 2005 and 2006, and have appeared in 56 post-season games. In the past 41 years, SJU has been nationally ranked 40 times, and it owns a 39-17 postseason record. In 1993, SJU averaged a record 61.5 points per game.
In addition to his various head coaching duties, Gagliardi has also been athletic director at both Carroll (1949-53) and Saint John’s (1976-94). In June 2006, Gagliardi was inducted into the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) Hall of Fame.