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


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