St. John#039;s Gagliardi sets wins record

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 10, 2003

COLLEGEVILLE, Minn. - John Gagliardi became college football's career victory leader when St. John's rallied to beat Bethel 29-26 on Saturday.

Gagliardi, in his 55th season and his 51st with the Johnnies, got his 409th victory. He passed Eddie Robinson, who retired in 1997 after winning 408 games with Division I-AA Grambling State.

''I have never have thought about retiring,'' Gagliardi, 77, said after a lengthy ceremony in his honor on the home field of the Division III liberal arts school in central Minnesota.

Email newsletter signup

Ryan Keating's fourth touchdown pass, a 10-yard toss to Josh Nelson, gave the Johnnies the lead with 2:03 remaining. St. John's (9-0, 8-0) also clinched the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title, its 10th in the last 13 years.

For a small school, St. John's has been showered with attention in recent weeks as the record neared. But the players were more excited about another trip to the postseason than Gagliardi's milestone.

An estimated 13,107 fans clogged the stands and surrounding snow-covered hills at Clemens Stadium, the largest crowd to ever see a St. John's game.

Gagliardi, wearing a maroon parka with a huge hood pulled over his head to keep warm on an 18-degree afternoon, was mobbed by fans and cameras as he walked to the center of the field after the game was over.

Gagliardi has won three national titles at St. John's.

The Johnnies gained an automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs, their sixth straight appearance.