Updated 11/19/2012 3:48PM
St. John’s hasn’t been in the market for a new head football coach in over 60 years. On Monday, that impressive streak came to an end.
John Gagliardi, college football’s all-time winningest coach, announced Monday that he will step down as head coach of the St. John’s football team, ending his 60-year reign at the helm for the Johnnies.
Among his many accomplishments as a football coach are four national titles, 489 wins, and a difference made in thousands of young men from St. John’s who he has mentored for almost six decades. His retirement comes after the worst season the Johnnies have played, with an overall record of 5-5, since the 1960s.
A legendary force in collegiate football, Gagliardi’s most recent national title came in 2003, and he has also become renowned for his unconventional coaching tactics – such as an enforced no-contact during St. John’s practices.
In 2012, the Johnnies (5-5, 3-5 MIAC) finished sixth in the MIAC and missed out on the NCAA playoffs for the third consecutive season. The team also suffered its third consecutive defeat to St. Thomas, SJU’s first three game losing streak to the Tommies since 1955-57.
These recent struggles that St. John’s football has endured had many wondering if Gagliardi’s time was up and that the team would be better off bringing in a fresh face to coach the Johnnies.
Despite the speculation, Gagliardi insists that it wasn’t just one, but a number of factors that contributed to his decision to retire. He also maintains that he has thoroughly enjoyed his time as the St. John’s signal caller.
“Lately, we haven’t won quite at the pace that we were winning, but I just have to be grateful for the pace that we were winning for a long time,” he said. “If 20 years ago someone had told me how many games we were going to win between then and now, I wouldn’t have believed it. I’m grateful for that. Like a lot of good memories, like my wedding day, it’s just a pleasant memory to me now.”
Gagliardi’s decision to leave his post as head coach, one in which he amassed 465 wins over the last 60 years, came as a bit of a shock to some.
“There had been speculation,” said Gary Fasching, defensive assistant coach and recruiting director for the team. “He hadn’t mentioned anything to us as coaches beforehand, so it was a bit of a shock.”
“It really hasn’t set in yet,” senior cornerback Bobby Fischer said. “I’m not sure if it will to be honest. He’s been such a staple at this school for so long. It came as a shock to a lot of us.”
Now with Gagliardi out, Johnnie fans will be wondering where SJU football goes next. SJU Athletic Director Tom Stock has indicated that the void left by Gagliardi’s departure will soon be filled.
“I hope that for the next couple of days, things will stay focused on John Gagliardi and his great accomplishments at St. John’s,” he said. “We have a process ready to go, and we’ll roll that out over the coming days where we’ll begin a national search immediately to find his successor.
“We’re hoping that after about a 30-day process, we’ll be able to announce the next head football coach for St. John’s.”
Gagliardi is retiring as the NCAA’s all-time leader in wins (489), a four-time national champion and the first active coach to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame (2006).
Candidates for Gagliardi’s replacement have been speculated, and according to reporting by the Star Tribune, include former St. John’s All-American and Eden Prairie High School head coach Mike Grant and current SJU assistant coach Gary Fasching.