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John Gagliardi retires as winningest coach in college football history

John Gagliardi, who retired today as college football's winningest coach, is seen here in 2003 with former President George W. Bush at the White House for a ceremony honoring sports champions. (IKE THEILER/AFP/Getty Images)

John Gagliardi, an 86-year-old coach who spent the last six decades with Div. III St. John’s (Minn.) University, stepped down on Monday, according to Pat Borzi of The New York Times:

“I’ve been thinking about it all through my 80s, so six or seven years now. I don’t know. I just decided that enough is enough.”

Gagliardi won 489 games over 64 seasons, more than anyone in the history of college football. He insisted that it was his decision and that he wasn't forced out by the University; Gagliardi had failed to make the playoffs since 2009:

"Nobody ever said that getting older was easy. I just can’t do the job at the level I used to anymore.”

He said it frustrates him that he doesn't have a say in the process to replace him, and hopes that his son, Jim, and his grandson, Bill, succeed him as coach. Another possible candidate for the position is Mike Grant, whose father, Bud Grant, is a former coach with the Minnesota Vikings.

President Barack Obama issued a statement on Gagliardi's retirement, saying that his influence on "players as scholar athletes and human beings" will be seen beyond his years as a coach:

"Over the course of 64 seasons – 60 of them at his beloved Saint John’s – Gagliardi’s 486 wins put him among the greatest to ever coach the game,” read the statement released through the White House by President Barack Obama.  ”With a career that began as a 16-year-old after his high school coach was called to serve in World War II, Gagliardi was never the most conventional figure.  He instructed his players to call him “John” instead of “Coach,” and in turn, called each of his more than 100 players by their first names.  His refusal to allow tackling in practice and his insistence that players make class before practice also became the stuff of legend. [B]ut the unusual methods worked – earning St. John’s four national championships.  And even as his time on the gridiron comes to a close, Gagliardi’s genuine concern for players as scholar athletes and human beings will ensure that his influence will be felt for years to come.”

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