MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The very thought of coaching in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl would intimidate many Division III coaches.
Not St. John's coach John Gagliardi, a 74-year-old whose 367 career victories are 63 more than the legendary Stagg ever won. Gagliardi is asked so often when he intends to retire that he has worked Stagg, who coached until he was 90, and Eddie Robinson, who won a record 408 games, into his latest routine.
"If I can keep coaching another 16 years, at two victories a crack," he said, "I can get both of those."
Gagliardi is far more concerned about having to play top-ranked Mount Union (Ohio) for the Division III title Saturday in Salem, Va. While the Johnnies have won an impressive three national titles during Gagliardi's 48 seasons -- most recently in 1976 -- the Purple Raiders are seeking their fourth in five seasons.
"What they've done is unprecedented," Gagliardi said.
The Purple Raiders, who average a nation-leading 49 points per game, have won 67 of their last 68 games, losing only to Rowan in last season's semifinals. They had won 54 games in a row, which broke Oklahoma's 42-year-old record of 47 consecutive victories.
Mount Union's 56-8 victory over the Johnnies in a 1993 semifinal remains the worst loss of Gagliardi's career.
"This team can embarrass you, as well," Gagliardi said. "I wasn't sure I'd have to play them again after '93. I was sure they'd go into the Big Ten. Then again, I don't think the Big Ten wanted any part of them."
The Johnnies (13-1) have had to travel the hard road to this championship game. They had to beat the nation's No. 2, 3 and 5 teams, as well as the defending national champions. They had to win all four of their playoff games on the road.
They are led by quarterback Tom Linneman, of Melrose, who was granted an extra season of eligibility after breaking an ankle last season. He has thrown for 3,352 yards passing, ranks sixth nationally in total offense and is a candidate for the Gagliardi Award, given to the nation's top player and named for his coach.
Jeremy Forsell, a wide receiver from St. Joseph, has caught 78 passes for 950 yards and eight touchdowns. Nate Kirschner, a tight end from Mora, has 69 receptions for 1,137 yards and 16 TDs. Chris Moore, a fullback from Edina, has rushed for 1,130 yards.
The defense, led by linebacker Beau LaBore, of South St. Paul, ranks 10th nationally and has intercepted 26 passes.
This team's story, however, begins and ends with Gagliardi, the winningest active coach in football.
Books have been written about the man, and more are on the way. His coaching career really began, sort of, when as a 16-year-old he took over his high-school team because the coach was drafted into World War II. He has stayed at St. John's all these years because he didn't consider his other offers, from places such as South Dakota and North Dakota State, to be much better.
"Now, had Notre Dame called ... I'd have been fired long ago."
He has coached triple-option and spread offenses. He has coached without scholarships, spring football, blocking sleds or whistles. He has coached without giving retirement much thought.
"I think about it," he said, "but not for very long.
"You look around at Joe Paterno. Now there's a guy who really doesn't have to be working. He's giving libraries to his university, so you can imagine what he's worth. And if you're Steve Spurrier, making $2 million, you should be able to retire, too."
Gagliardi needs only 31 more victories to catch Robinson. None are likely to be more challenging than Saturday.
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