Whalen. Gagliardi. Ikola. And three Vikings greats whose names combine for Hall-of-Fame-worthy alliteration: Randy, Randall and Randle. The first full class of inductees in more than a decade is coming to the Star Tribune Minnesota Sports Hall of Fame in December, and it’s a loaded one.
The Class of 2019: Lindsay Whalen, John Gagliardi, Willard Ikola, Randy Moss, Randall McDaniel and John Randle.
Followers of Minnesota sports know these names well. Whalen is one of the greatest champions the state has known. The former Gophers and Lynx guard — with a Final Four appearance, two Olympic gold medals and four WNBA titles in her playing career — is now the coach of the Gophers women’s team. McDaniel (with the Vikings from 1988-99), Randle (1990-2000) and Moss (1998-2004, 2010) are Pro Football Hall of Famers and among the greatest Vikings players ever. And if someone were to rank Minnesota coaches across all sports and eras, they’d have Ikola and Gagliardi right near the top.
As a goalie, Ikola won three state hockey titles with Eveleth and later helped the U.S. bring home a silver medal in the 1956 Winter Olympics. His success continued behind the bench after his one and only losing season as a rookie high school coach in Edina. Ikola’s Hornets won 19 section titles and eight state championships. Ikola, 87, called his election to the Minnesota Hall of Fame “a very special honor for me.”
Gagliardi died in 2018 at age 91 after having won more college football games than anyone in history. He won most of those at St. John’s, and the man and the football program became one and the same over six decades. Gagliardi defied conventional wisdom with no-tackle, no-whistle practices. He told his players to call him John, not Coach. When asked after his retirement for one word to describe his style, he chose “unorthodox.” Gagliardi did it his way to the tune of 489 victories and four national championships. Members of the Gagliardi family will be in attendance in his honor on Dec. 11. This year’s Minnesota Sports Awards, which is presented by Sports Minneapolis, will be held at The Depot hotel in Minneapolis.
A fair question: Why haven’t the likes of Ikola, Gagliardi, McDaniel, et al, been inducted before 2019? Formerly housed in the Metrodome, the Minnesota Sports Hall of Fame went dormant for more than a decade and hasn’t inducted a full class since 2006. Last year, the Star Tribune revived the Hall and inducted media icon Sid Hartman at the Minnesota Sports Awards.
The Class of 2019 brings the number of Minnesota Sports Hall of Fame inductees to 79. Reader nominations for the Class of 2020 will open early next year.