By Ken Reed
The winningest coach in college football history has retired. But his legacy will be more than wins on a scoreboard.
Gagliardi coached at NCAA Division III St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota. His resume includes 489 wins, 30 conference titles and four national championships. He was the first active head coach to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
But his legacy will be that he was the Anti-Lombardi. Vince Lombardi, the Green Bay Packers’ legendary coach, was famous for treating all his players the same way: like dogs. Gagliardi, on the other hand, had a different approach. He coached like he would’ve liked to have been coached himself. As such, he was guided by the Golden Rule. In fact, it was the only rule he used with his St. John’s teams over the years.
“I think the key is the Golden Rule. Treat kids the way you’d like to be treated. Coach them how you would like to be coached. We want guys to observe the Golden Rule. That will take care of most everything. That’s our only rule. Find kids that don’t need any other rules besides the Golden Rule. Those who need other rules won’t keep them.”
Gagliardi successfully created an environment that balanced high expectations and fun. His coaching methods have been summarized in a series of “NO’s” that have been titled, “Winning With No.” His “NO’s” included:
No tackling in practice — players wear shorts or sweats. No long practices – an hour and a half or less. No compulsory weightlifting program. No wind sprints or laps. No blocking sleds or dummies. No worrying about being different or unique. No players cut (each year over 150 players turned out to be part of Gagliardi’s program). No special dormitory or training table – team eats with other students. No dress code. No whistles. No yelling or screaming at players. No resemblance to a boot camp. No surviving without plenty of humor.
During his career, Gagliardi grew used to being surrounded by authoritarian-style leaders in the football coaching fraternity. But being unique never bothered him. He was confident his approach was the right way to treat people.
“Everyone thought being the drill sergeant coach was the way to go. I never thought it was. I never responded to being hollered at. The players like the way we’ve done it through the years and I think the parents have liked it too.”
Coach how you would’ve liked to have been coached yourself…. It’s a mantra that all coaches today would be wise to follow.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a long-time member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
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Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
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Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
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Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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