Page 2 of 2 Previous

Continued: Retirement rumors again swirling, Gagliardi faces first losing season since '67

  • Article by: MIKE KASZUBA , Star Tribune
  • Last update: October 12, 2012 - 6:37 AM

COLLEGEVILLE, MINN. - The winningest coach in college football history, looking every bit his 85 years, sagged in his office chair and talked of his health, his fading prospects of reaching 500 career victories and the physical toll taken as St. John's University stares at its first losing season since 1967.

The downturn of what had been a perennial NCAA Division III national powerhouse has led to the inevitable questions of whether John Gagliardi might soon end his legendary career at St. John's. The coach was alternately feisty and reflective Wednesday as he talked of a season gone awry and a future that looks increasingly uncertain.

 "I don't know how much I've slipped -- obviously, who hasn't slipped?" said Gagliardi, who will be 86 in three weeks. "I'm not exactly as young as I used to be."

Gagliardi's team this year has been dogged by key injuries and after a 2-0 start has dropped four consecutive games to conference opponents, losing by 31 points last Saturday to Augsburg. The Johnnies will have to win three of their remaining four games to avoid their first losing season since Lyndon Johnson was president.

"We've never had one of these years," the coach said before bundling up in a hooded parka to slowly make his way out to a practice on a gray, chilly October afternoon. Gagliardi rides a golf cart the short distance to St. John's idyllic football field, and a school spokesman confirmed that the coach has spent several games this year watching from the press box as opposed to the sidelines.

Two months after talking of coaching until he has 500 wins -- he sits at 486 -- Gagliardi said his comments were meant more as a joke, as opposed to a real goal.

He also said some may be relishing his team's losing record, and what might come next. "I suppose they'll be smiling when I die. I'm sure there will be people like that," he said. "I don't think everybody in the world loves me."

Coach will make the call

Down the hallway from Gagliardi's office, Athletic director Tom Stock said it will be up to the coach to tell him when he is done, and that the school has privately put a plan in place to conduct a national search for a successor.

"I think the losses really take their toll," Stock said. "He's won four out of [every] five games in his 60-year coaching career. He's an ultracompetitive person.

"The losses really, in a sport as visible as football, sap the energy and strength out of him," and everyone else, Stock said.

In an indication of how rapidly speculation is spreading that an announcement may be imminent, Stock, who spent Thursday in meetings in the Twin Cities, said he called Gagliardi to make sure the coach had not had "a change of heart" and was now considering making a decision before the season ends. Gagliardi, he said, told him no.

Stock was also asked whether the school would ever formally approach Gagliardi about retiring, rather than waiting for Gagliardi to make the first move. "I hope we never have to go there," he said.

Program declines

The coach -- like most of the school's employees -- gets a one-year contract that begins on July 1. Stock said the conversation with Gagliardi about the next year typically takes place after the season. Last year, Stock said Gagliardi simply told him, "If I have my health, if I have the energy, I want to coach another year."

In many ways, this is uncharted territory for a school that has been synonymous with winning football.

"It would surprise me" if Gagliardi announced this was his last year, Bobby Fischer, a senior cornerback from Plymouth, said before a weekday practice. "At the same time, I wouldn't be overly shocked because of the situation."

Gagliardi was the first active head coach in the College Football Hall of Fame. He passed former Grambling State coach Eddie Robinson as the winningest college football coach in 2003, the year Gagliardi led the Johnnies to a 14-0 season and an NCAA Division III championship.

His teams, however, have slipped in the past three years. After winning the MIAC four out of five years ending in 2009, the Johnnies finished 7-3 in 2010 and 6-4 last year -- good for fourth place. Gagliardi's teams last made it out of the postseason's first round in 2007.

Eden Prairie High School coach Mike Grant, who has built a perennial state title contender and is the son of legendary Vikings coach Bud Grant, has long been rumored to be the leading candidate to succeed Gagliardi. Stock on Wednesday called Grant "a great alum" but added that Grant has not talked to him about the job. "Mike, like all the internal candidates and others who may be interested, would be welcome to apply," he said.

This year's losses likely mean that Gagliardi, who entered the season needing 16 wins to reach 500, will be hard-pressed to reach the milestone in 2013. Coming back for still another season in 2014 would mean Gagliardi would be coaching on his 88th birthday.

On Wednesday, Gagliardi downplayed his desire to get to 500 and said that, before the season, he also joked that it would take eight years to reach the goal if he won just two games a year. "I was just horsing around," he said.

There is speculation that has Gagliardi announcing his retirement next week -- a bye week for the team -- and then the school honoring its iconic coach at the year's last home game against Gustavus Adolphus on Oct. 27.

"I haven't been privy to any of that," said Gagliardi's son, Jim, who has been the team's offensive coordinator since the early 1990s. "If it's been talked about, it's been between him and someone else."

But Jim Gagliardi said it is difficult to ignore the impact the season has already had. "It seems like everything's snowballing on us," he said. He said he and his father usually postpone discussions of how long Gagliardi will coach until "at the end of season and summers when we can sit off on the lake, something like that, and more or less reminisce.

"He's 86. It's not going to be 10 years from now, that's for sure," said his son.

Standing outside the locker room, senior running back Stephen Johnson said the mood has been somber. "No one takes the losses harder than John," he said of his coach. "It's obviously not where we wanted to be, or expected to be."

Back in his office, Gagliardi watched game film of his next opponent, Carleton, and cursed as he had trouble getting the computer software to cooperate. He also read an e-mail from a supporter who reminded him that "this too shall pass."

Then he turned feisty. "You want me to say I'm thinking of retirement? I'm not thinking about retirement. I'm thinking about this [next] game," he said.

Mike Kaszuba • 651-222-1673

  • related content

  • Chart: John Gagliardi's coaching accomplishments

    Thursday October 11, 2012

    LEGENDARYA look at John Gagliardi's coaching accomplishments:Record: 486-137-11 (most victories in college football history)At St. John's: 462-131-10 (60 years)MIAC titles:...

  • Storylines: MIAC football Week 6

    Thursday October 11, 2012

    GAME OF THE WEEKBethel at St. Thomas, 1:10 p.m. Saturday: For the third consecutive week, Bethel (5-0, 3-0 MIAC) will...

  • A profile of St. John's University head football coach John Gagliardi...

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Atlanta 6 FINAL
Detroit 4
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
Houston 6
St. Louis 4 FINAL
Miami 1
Baltimore 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay 2
NY Yankees 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Chicago Cubs 6 FINAL
San Francisco 8
Los Angeles 6 FINAL
Chicago WSox 1
San Diego 4 FINAL
Seattle 9
Cleveland 9 FINAL
Cincinnati 3
Milwaukee 2 FINAL
LA Angels 3
Oakland 2 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 2
Texas 4 FINAL
Kansas City 5
Colorado 3 FINAL
Arizona 4
NY Mets 4 FINAL
Washington 5
Boston 8 FINAL
Minnesota 9
Toronto 0 FINAL
Baltimore 5
Oklahoma City 105 FINAL
Chicago 108
Dallas 75 FINAL
Portland 94
Calgary 4 FINAL(SO)
Boston 3
St. Louis 1 FINAL
Philadelphia 3
Minnesota 2 FINAL
Washington 1
Toronto 2 FINAL
Tampa Bay 4
Dallas 4 FINAL(SO)
Florida 3
NY Islanders 4 FINAL
Nashville 3
Vancouver 2 FINAL(SO)
Arizona 3
Montreal 3 FINAL(SO)
Los Angeles 4
Morgan State 76 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 89
Niagara 54 FINAL
Siena 71
Holy Cross 83 FINAL
Bucknell 90
Western Ky 88 FINAL
Charlotte 84
Navy 62 FINAL
Colgate 72
Temple 70 FINAL
East Carolina 56
UAB 59 FINAL
Fla Atlantic 62
Boston Univ 64 FINAL
Lafayette 89
American Univ 68 FINAL
Lehigh 62
Wisconsin 76 FINAL
Minnesota 63
Fairfield 33 FINAL
Saint Peters 63
Arkansas 78 FINAL
South Carolina 74
Morehead State 76 FINAL
UT Martin 65
USC Upstate 63 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 62
Lipscomb 57 FINAL
North Florida 71
Southern Ill 55 FINAL
Missouri State 48
Texas State 64 FINAL
Appalachian St 67
SC State 62 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 72
Delaware State 104 FINAL
Coppin State 92
Middle Tennessee 54 FINAL
FIU 59
Texas-Arlington 64 FINAL
Ga Southern 76
Norfolk State 80 FINAL
Hampton 69
NC A&T 58 FINAL
NC Central 69
Savannah State 57 FINAL
Florida A&M 64
Southern Miss 61 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 72
Marshall 50 FINAL
Old Dominion 67
Rice 76 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 74
South Alabama 81 FINAL
Arkansas State 76
Alabama State 78 FINAL
Grambling St 46
Alabama A&M 54 FINAL
Jackson State 72
Sam Houston St 67 FINAL
Lamar 61
Georgia State 58 FINAL
ULM 50
Central Arkansas 70 FINAL
Nicholls 77
Portland State 51 FINAL
Northern Ariz 58
Southern U 77 FINAL
Prairie View 73
Alcorn State 73 FINAL
Texas Southern 94
Houston Baptist 72 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 85
Ark-Little Rock 69 FINAL
Louisiana 75
SE Louisiana 79 FINAL
New Orleans 85
California 60 FINAL
Arizona 99
Memphis 54 FINAL
Connecticut 53
VA Commonwealth 55 FINAL
Davidson 82
Ark-Pine Bluff 0 Postponed
Miss Valley St 0
Sacramento St 65 FINAL
Southern Utah 69
Northwestern St 66 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 92
North Texas 60 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 83
Colorado 64 FINAL
Washington 47
Idaho 63 FINAL
Weber State 74
Abilene Christian 52 FINAL
Incarnate Word 64
Eastern Wash 85 FINAL
Idaho State 81
Marist 80 FINAL
Quinnipiac 74
Eastern Ill 64 FINAL
Belmont 97
Bradley 52 FINAL
Drake 50
Cal State Fullerton 62 FINAL
UC Irvine 68
CS-Northridge 58 FINAL
Long Beach State 69
UC Riverside 59 FINAL
UC Davis 61
Stanford 62 FINAL
Arizona State 67
Utah 67 FINAL
Washington St 59
Monmouth 68 FINAL
Canisius 56
Wake Forest 85 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 79
Saint Louis 65 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 58
Saint Peters 62 FINAL
Rider 54
UNC-Asheville 51 FINAL
Liberty 59
UNC Greensboro 44 FINAL
(17) Chattanooga 78
Michigan State 69 FINAL
Michigan 49
Arkansas 72 FINAL
Ole Miss 61
Manhattan 51 FINAL
Niagara 57
Massachusetts 63 FINAL
Richmond 67
Virginia 52 FINAL
Miami-Florida 62
Jacksonville St 45 FINAL
Belmont 55
Morgan State 65 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 50
Campbell 65 FINAL
Winthrop 52
Furman 65 FINAL
Samford 54
Oregon 64 FINAL
Washington St 66
Indiana 52 FINAL
(23) Rutgers 63
Pepperdine 67 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 68
Auburn 47 FINAL
(18) Texas A&M 57
Morehead St 66 FINAL
Tennessee St 81
George Mason 43 FINAL
Saint Josephs 71
Western Carolina 53 FINAL
East Tenn St 73
Arizona 62 FINAL
UCLA 80
FIU 30 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 79
Texas State 55 FINAL
Appalachian St 61
TX-Arlington 66 FINAL
Georgia Southern 41
SC State 57 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 56
Delaware State 51 FINAL
Coppin State 80
Portland 58 FINAL
Santa Clara 66
Norfolk State 49 FINAL
Hampton 64
Florida Atlantic 56 FINAL
UAB 59
NC A&T 67 FINAL
NC Central 46
Savannah State 72 FINAL
Florida A&M 51
Virginia Tech 51 FINAL
Pittsburgh 45
Central Arkansas 43 FINAL
Nicholls 53
Houston Baptist 48 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 73
Gardner-Webb 70 FINAL
Radford 56
Georgia 75 FINAL
Missouri 64
Old Dominion 67 FINAL
Marshall 55
Ark-Little Rock 68 FINAL
Louisiana 66
South Alabama 60 FINAL
Arkansas State 70
Georgia State 66 FINAL
ULM 61
Sam Houston St 73 FINAL
Lamar 92
SE Louisiana 75 FINAL
New Orleans 84
Northwestern St 45 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 56
Alabama A&M 58 FINAL
Jackson State 66
Alabama State 68 FINAL
Grambling 62
Southern U 78 FINAL
Prairie View 50
Alcorn State 55 FINAL
Texas Southern 73
Ark-Pine Bluff 0 Postponed
Miss Valley St 0
Wofford 54 FINAL
Mercer 75
Abilene Christian 72 FINAL
Incarnate Word 62
La Salle 60 FINAL
Rhode Island 65
Illinois 71 FINAL
Nebraska 86
TX-San Antonio 60 FINAL
Rice 49
Valparaiso 55 FINAL
Oakland 70
Missouri State 65 FINAL
Indiana State 56
Georgia Tech 64 FINAL
(15) North Carolina 84
Charlotte 72 FINAL
Western Ky 80
Texas-El Paso 69 FINAL
North Texas 61
Wichita State 77 FINAL
Evansville 63
Loyola-Chicago 64 FINAL
Northern Iowa 69
Bradley 70 FINAL
Drake 86
Presbyterian 62 FINAL
High Point 75
Vanderbilt 61 FINAL
(12) Kentucky 67
Colorado 75 FINAL
USC 63
San Francisco 74 FINAL
Pacific 64
Idaho State 58 FINAL
Eastern Washington 62
Weber State 42 FINAL
Idaho 71
Purdue 78 FINAL
Minnesota 82
Cal-Irvine 54 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 66
Long Beach St 60 FINAL
CS-Northridge 77
Hawaii 60 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 36
UC Davis 56 FINAL
UC-Riverside 61
Northern Ariz 79 FINAL
Portland State 62
Southern Utah 73 FINAL
Sacramento St 107
Utah 64 FINAL
Washington 75
BYU 65 FINAL
St Marys-CA 64
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is the best center on a Twin Cities sports team?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close