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John Gagliardi walked off the field at the end of the game against Bethel, which proved to be his final game as Johnnies coach.

Bruce Bisping, Dml - Star Tribune

Top 12 Minnesota sports stories in 2012: Gagliardi calls it quits

  • Article by: MICHAEL RAND
  • Star Tribune
  • December 20, 2012 - 9:42 PM

The end of 2012 is quickly approaching; as such, we have compiled the top 12 Minnesota sports stories -- positive or negative -- from the year. We'll be counting them down every weekday from now until Jan. 1, when the top story will run. Here is No. 8:

Only 10 coaches in college football history have won at least 300 games. John Gagliardi, a man who came to symbolize St. John's, stands atop that list with nearly 500.

But at age 86, after having coached 60 years at St. John's and having 489 career victories in the bank, Gagliardi in November announced his retirement. It was a national story that even drew a response from the White House.

Gagliardi and the Johnnies won two NAIA national titles and two NCAA Division III titles -- the last of which came 2003, the year Gagliardi set the record for college coaching victories with his 409th. In his later years, he became known mostly for his longevity; those who played for him and knew him best also noted how much of an offensive innovator he was. He drew perhaps just as much acclaim for his unusual policies, which included not cutting players.

"What isn't written about is how many lives he's touched," former player Blake Elliott said after Gagliardi's retirement. "Think about what not cutting guys means: 60 years with 190 guys on every team. That's thousands of people that have had a positive impact by being around John."

Indeed. There are massive shoes to fill. The Johnnies are down to three candidates to replace Gagliardi, with a decision expected to come very soon as 2012 draws to a close.

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