John Gagliardi and Eddie Robinson are Victims of New Math
It was definitely a doleful day when Bobby Bowden announced that he was retiring as coach of the Florida State Seminoles at the end of the season.
Commentator after commentator extolled the virtues of a man, who according to them, will retire second in wins, behind Penn State's Joe Paterno, in the history of college football.
What is even more surprising than Bowden's fall from grace is that experts in a sport like college football, whose history is intertwined with statistical data, are now applying new math to their number crunching.
Bowden's 388 wins still equal 388, unless the NCAA succeeds in taking wins away for Florida State's athletes participating in a cheating scandal. Paterno's 393 victories still equal 393. However, due to some new calculations, Eddie Robinson's 408 wins and John Gagliardi's 471 wins now equal zero.
The formula that many media people are using is that lower division football equals no repect. Paterno and Bowden are only first and second in career wins in FBS history, not the entire history of college football.
When Robinson became the head coach of Grambling State in 1941, he had no paid assistants, no trainers, and not much equipment to work with. Robinson even had to perform the groundskeeping on the football field himself.
After going 3-5 in Robinson's first year, Grambling went 9-0 and became the second and last team to go an entire season unscored upon. In his 55 seasons at Grambling, Robinson aided the Tigers in winning or sharing 17 Southwest Athletic Conference championships and nine black college football national championships.
Unlike Bowden and Paterno, Robinson had to fight against the institutional racism that was prominent in the south at the time. The fact that Grambling State was still named the Louisiana Negro Normal and Industrial Institute when Robinson arrived on campus tells one all one needs to know about the barriers Robinson was up against.
Some of Robinson's players weren't just great SWAC athletes, they were also great NFL players. Tank Younger was the first NFL player from a historically black institution. Hall of Famers Willie Brown, Buck Buchanan, Willie Davis, and Charlie Joyner all played for Robinson.
John Gagliardi is an incredible football coach. Not only does Gagliardi have the most wins in the history of college football, his winning percentage of .784 is higher than any of the coaches currently ranked in the top ten in victories.
Gagliardi has just recently completed his record 61st season as a collegiate head football coach and his 57th season at St. John's of Minnesota.
Upon his arrival at St. John's, Gagliardi was told he could never win there. Since 1953, Gagliardi has won 27 conference titles and Division III national championships in 1963, 1965, 1976, and 2003. Gagliardi's last losing season was in 1967.
Gagliardi holds the unique distinction of actually starting his coaching career while still attending high school. At the age of 16, he became the head coach of Trinidad Catholic High School in Colorado when the previous coach was drafted into World War II.
Unlike most coaches at FBS institutions, Gagliardi was saddled with other job duties aside from just being a football coach. While leading Carroll College in Helena, MT to three conference football titles in four years, Gagliardi also headed the basketball and baseball teams and won conference championships in those sports as well. If coaching wasn't enough to keep him busy, Gagliardi served as Carroll's athletic director.
At SJU, Gagliardi was the athletic director from 1976 to 1994. He won conference championships as St. John's track coach and compiled a 42-25-1 record as the Johnnies hockey coach. His winning percentage of .625 as the hockey coach is still the best of anyone in school history.
Among his other distinguished honors, Gagliardi has been named a finalist for the 2009 Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award. The award honors the achievement of coaches on and off the playing field.
What makes Gagliardi stand out among his peers is his unique method of preparing his teams for competition. He doesn't bring a whistle to practice, and his players do not tackle in practice.
While fearing a coach is common place in sports, Gagliari's players don't even call him coach—they refer to him simply as "John."
While Robinson and Gagliardi may not have received the same notoriety as Bowden and Paterno, their achievements as coaches and nurturers of young men are just as noteworthy. Robinson and Gagliardi may not have coached at the highest level of college football, but their abilities to lead are unmatched.
If Paterno continues coaching at Penn State, he will probably eventually surpass Robinson's win total. Since Gagliardi is still active and shows no signs of wanting to retire, Paterno will probably never overtake him.
Hopefully, one day, everyone will recognize Gagliardi for what he really is—the winniest coach in the history of college football.
(Photo credit: The Minnesota Score/Tom Dahlin)
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