Posts Tagged ‘St. John’s football’


I wasn’t able to watch or listen to the St. John’s-St. Thomas game on Saturday so I spent much of my afternoon refreshing Twitter on my phone, searching for updates from St. Cloud Times writer Frank Rajkowski and a handful of fans at the game. It’s not an enjoyable way to follow a football game; the only thing worse might be attending an NFL game and being surrounded by drunks, felons and drunk felons.

And so I learned on Twitter that the Johnnies upset the No. 2 team in the Division III rankings, holding on for a 20-18 victory when St. Thomas missed a field goal on the final play of the game. It was the Johnnies’ first victory over the Tommies since 2009 and followed two straight routs at the hands of their rivals. A month ago, when I wrote about Gary Fasching taking over for John Gagliardi, I included a line about simply wanting St. John’s to beat St. Thomas and nothing else this season would really matter. The Johnnies did, and suddenly every game from here on out does matter.

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Most everything looks the same on the St. John’s football practice field. There are still nearly 200 players and they’ll still run around in shorts and shoulder pads. The defensive coordinator who’s been on the staff for nearly 40 years remains. The Collegeville setting is as picturesque as ever, even with the lights.

But for the first time since the 1952 season, John Gagliardi won’t lead those practices. Gagliardi retired at the end of the 2012 season, after 60 years on the St. John’s sideline and 64 as a college coach. And as Frank Rajkowski wrote in the St. Cloud Times, if you go back to the time he spent coaching his high school team, Gagliardi has been on the sidelines since he was 16.

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John Gagliardi lost the first game he ever coached at St. John’s University and the last one. If not for the 60 years of coaching in between those two defeats, the guy might have been run out of town.

The legendary football coach announced his retirement on Monday afternoon and said goodbye in a quip-filled press conference on the St. John’s campus in central Minnesota. Undaunted by that first defeat as St. John’s coach, he retires as the winningest coach in college football history, with a career record of 489-138-11. It’s not quite right to say it’s a record that will never be broken. Mount Union’s Larry Kehres — head of the all-powerful Purple Raiders machine — has 328 victories and counting and is the one guy who could threaten the mark, if he wants to stick around long enough to track it down.

It’s uncertain if the record will fall in 10-15 years or last forever. But one thing is for sure — there will never be another coach like John Gagliardi.

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Frank Rajkowski of the St. Cloud Times reported this morning that St. John’s coach John Gagliardi is retiring after 64 seasons as a head coach and 489 victories.

I’ll have a post tomorrow and there will also be some great stories written about Gagliardi that we’ll link to later (especially can’t wait for Patrick Reusse to weigh in). But for now, just want to put some links to past stories on Gagliardi, some I’ve done.

From 2010, my annual St. John’s/John Gagliardi propaganda post.

From 2011, a piece I wrote after the Johnnies lost to the Tommies 63-7.

My 2011 Q&A with former Johnnie great Tom Linnemann. Lots of great Gagliardi insight here. 

D3football.com’s early piece on the retirement, with some quotes from Gagliardi and SJU folks.

D3football.com writer Keith McMillan wrote about Collegeville and Gagliardi in 2007. 

A 2003 piece from Jim Caple for ESPN.com about Gagliardi.

Here’s the Star Tribune’s early story on his retirement.

Reusse was at what turned out to be Gagliardi’s final game.

A 2003 piece by the great Ira Berkow in the New York Times.

A 2012 interview with Gagliardi for League of Fans.

Austin Murphy’s 1992 piece for Sports Illustrated on Gagliardi.

And how about a classic Gagliardi speech:


When I arrived home Monday night I listened to a voice mail from an earnest young man at St. John’s University who was calling to remind me that my class is celebrating its 15th reunion at the school’s upcoming homecoming festivities.

Members of the class of ’97 will gather in Collegeville to exchange stories about old professors and vomit-polluted evenings, all while showing off their two kids and pretty wives, most of whom graduated from St. Ben’s. Under sunny skies — because the heavens wouldn’t dare open up on a St. John’s football game, except perhaps during those seasons when they lose more than three games — the Johnnies will battle St. Olaf. At least 10,000 fans will attend the game, though the announced attendance will likely be extraordinarily, and, perhaps suspiciously specific, something like 11,876.

And I’ll be 1,500 miles away, holed up in an apartment in upper Manhattan, listening to the game on the Internet. I’ll miss the atmosphere and the scenery, the sights and the sounds. But I can’t say I’ll miss my old classmates. How could I? I never knew them.

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Terry came up with the idea. Terry dreamed up the name. Terry designed a logo. Terry secured the address. Terry solicited the first guest pieces. Terry created the Facebook and Twitter pages. Terry came up with early ideas. Terry wrote the first post. Terry remains the driving force.

So I guess it’s time I drop my lawsuit to get the name changed to FuryTV.

TVFury was born a year ago today, when Terry wrote a short, somewhat cryptic message that included a picture of a headless torso wearing a shirt emblazoned with his name. Since then we’ve published something every weekday, haven’t missed a one. We’ve written a lot about the St. John’s football team and even more about the Lakers (well, I’ve written about those things). We’ve written about technology and the future and school reading programs. We’ve written about life in New York City and life at a modern newspaper. We’ve welcomed numerous guest writers and attempted to make them feel at home, even while reminding them to use coasters and take their shoes off before entering. We’ve conducted podcasts with each other that ones of people have listened to and done pods with business owners that hundreds have listened to. We’ve conducted interviews with some of the best writers in the country.

It’s been a fun year.

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We started TVFury in July, with a dream and $10 million in seed money. Since then we’ve written about New York City streetball, mushing, Book It, Aw, verr, the sexy NBA.com homepage, The New Yorker Festival, New York City hurricanes and earthquakes, Dumb and Dumber, Wikipedia and more. We’ve had guest posts on Irish sports, Big Ten mascots, amateur baseball and more. We’ve had podcasts, some where you couldn’t hear either of us, some where you could hear both of us talking about the NBA, several with creative types and entrepreneuers.

Last week we celebrated our 100th post. The party was held in Manhattan, over Terry’s strong objections. He lobbied to hold the event at Fuddruckers in Sioux Falls and while I thought that would be a fine venue, I wasn’t sure if we could get the celebrities to attend. So we went with New York City. It took place in the Boom Boom Room. All the pretty people were there, and a surprising number of ugly people; our doormen failed. Still, we toasted with Yuengling and dined on goodies shipped over by Sioux Falls’ Queen City Bakery.

Well, that’s what we would have done. If we had $10 million. And if Terry could ever leave South Dakota.

Instead, we’ll commemorate by highlighting some of the ways people have found our little site in the past three months. These are some of the real searches folks use that have led them to TVFury. Some of them are questions, and we’ll answer those. Some searches are statements, and we’ll reply to those. We’ll also provide links to the relevant posts. These aren’t all of the searches, just some of the more popular  – or bizarre – ways people have stumbled upon our site. Searches below in bold.

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I don’t fear much in New York City. I feel safer walking around here than I did one night a few years ago in downtown Minneapolis, when there were about three lights working and two people around. There’s safety in numbers here. Terrorism? Nah. Earthquakes? Well, when’s that going to happen again?

But rats? God, the rats. I once had a rat run over my foot, while I was wearing sandals. That probably has something to do with the fear. As do the horrifying videos of rats crawling on people’s faces or legs on the subway.

This week in New York Magazine, writer Mark Jacobson wrote an entertaining – yet disturbing – story that carried the headline “Big Scary Ugly Dirty Rats: They’re everywhere-but they always were.” It attempts to figure out if there is a renaissance among the rats, or if we’re just more aware of them now. The last scene – where Jacobson confronts a rat in Central Park – will leave me with nightmares. As will the first scene, when a rat returns to life thanks to beer.

* Kris Humphries has apparently been in the news this week. He must be involved in negotiations in the NBA lockout or something. He used to make news for being a dominant high school basketball player at Hopkins. This thread – the original link for the newspaper story is old and dead – has a story from 2003, when Humphries was still planning on going to Duke, if he didn’t enter the NBA draft. It mentions fellow high school star LeBron James. Did you ever think you’d see the day when Kris Humphries – at least for a few months, or at least for a week – is more famous than LeBron?

* I, unfortunately, haven’t seen the new documentary on Chris Herren, which chronicles the former basketball star’ stunning fall and equally shocking resurrection. Here’s a podcast Herren did after the documentary aired, with Bill Simmons.

* And this week’s obligatory St. John’s football story, courtesy of Rachel Blount in the Star Tribune: Johnnies on the Spot.

* In other tabloid news, teen heartthrob Justin Bieber allegedly fathered a child with a fan. At least, that’s what one young woman is claiming.
Yes, this is the kind of junk that I read in the little free time I have. Weak.

* Actually, there was a time when I read books. One of them, The Rum Diary, is now a movie. If only that had happened in reverse order …
Anyway, the story was written by the notorious Hunter S. Thompson. He’s one of those people that is fascinating because he is sort of like me (a writer) yet nothing like me (a drug-addled lunatic).
Turns out Thompson was an old friend of current ESPN boss John Walsh. He tells some good stories in another recent episode of the B.S. Report.
As an aside, podcasts are great because you can ingest them while multitasking. Books? Not so much.

Postscript from Fury: Terry, I think you need the Book It program or something to get you back on the book bandwagon. Would a free pizza get you reading some more? And two words, my friend: audio books.


I watched my first St. John’s football game in six years on Saturday, but I’m still not exactly sure what I witnessed.

My eyes told me – and newspapers confirmed – that on Homecoming Saturday, in front of an announced crowd of more than 12,000 people, the normally stingy St. John’s defense allowed more than 500 yards of offense to Augsburg, a school that owned one victory over the Johnnies in the last 30 years. The Johnnies then rallied for a go-ahead touchdown in the final 30 seconds, a score that had the students ready to storm the field to celebrate another classic victory that could be filed away as another example of “Johnnie Magic.”

Then this happened:

Augsburg quarterback Marcus Brumm, who looked like a combination of Tom Brady and Dan Marino for much of the day, connected on a 48-yard reception on Augsburg’s first play of its final possession. Two plays later, he hit Auggie tight end Tyler Swanson as time expired for the winning touchdown, which silenced the crowd while the entire Augsburg team swarmed into the end zone to celebrate the improbable victory.

I said two players later. After the first long reception, Augsburg tried a Hail Mary into the end zone, which fell incomplete. Most people thought the game ended on that play. But incredibly, .6 seconds remained on the large scoreboard at Clemens Stadium. Point six. A blink, a breath. Point six. Not even a second, basically an imperceptible amount of time. Where’s the hometown scorekeeper when you really need him on Homecoming? With that remaining time, Augsburg ran one more play and the game went into a history book, which SJU students will hopefully burn in a large bonfire at the next Homecoming.

I watched the game with my dad in the top row of the packed students’ section. As Augsburg celebrated and I realized the refs had somehow missed the four holding calls, three offensive pass interferences, an illegal motion, a trip and a hands-to-the-face penalty and that a flag was not going to save the day for the Johnnies, I slammed the fence behind me with my program. I swore. Shook my head. Muttered. Sighed. Checked again for a flag. Walked down to midfield to meet my old college roommates and their families.

Twenty minutes later, long after nearly every player had gone into the locker room, to shed tears of joy or agony, a few guys from St. John’s and Augsburg wandered onto the field. A man with the Augsburg team shuffled us off to the sideline. Brief hope: The refs threw a late flag! No one saw it earlier but now they corrected the mistake? But no. Instead, the officials called the teams – or at least 11 guys from each school – back to the field to complete the extra point. Augsburg’s TD put it up 32-31, but if SJU had blocked the PAT and returned it for a score, they would have won. Hey, stranger things have happened – like Augsburg’s winning TD. So the rules required the PAT.

As I stood on the sidelines with my dad and friends and their kids – on the same spot where John Gagliardi has watched many of his 480 career victories and a handful of ridiculous endings that led to losses like Saturday’s – Augsburg took the snap and took a knee, again ending the game. This time officially, this time in an empty stadium. The Augsburg players again celebrated. We moped.

Damndest thing I’ve ever seen on a football field.

Today many Johnnie fans are grinding their spoiled teeth, wondering if some new scary era has started in the MIAC, one that includes a world where St. Thomas and Bethel dominate and SJU holds down the third-place spot each season, when it’s not losing to Augsburg or St. Olaf or Carleton or, god forbid, Hamline. I suppose I own some of those same concerns on some level. It’s tough enough living in a world where the Tommies win every basketball and baseball title – who wants to watch them win in the fall as well?

But when you have a coach who’s been on the sidelines for 63 years – 59 of them in Collegeville – you can take a long view. And the fact is, even though it seems John Gagliardi and the Johnnies have controlled the league from the moment he stepped foot on the secluded campus, there are always ebbs and flows in the conference. Even though it sometimes seems like it, MIAC titles aren’t birthrights for Johnnies. Over the years Concordia, St. Thomas, Gustavus, St. Olaf and even Hamline have landed shots to the Johnnies. Yes, this could very well be the first year the Johnnies miss the playoffs in back-to-back seasons since Reagan was running things. And yes, SJU could easily be 2-4, since they next face St. Thomas and Bethel.

But history shows that eventually, maybe not this year, and maybe not next year, but eventually, the Johnnies will return to the top. And chances are, Gagliardi will still be on the sidelines – where we stood Saturday – when they’re back on top. You wanna bet against him?

There’s plenty of time for SJU fans to fret about the team’s fortunes. Message boards and bars were built for those things. Saturday’s miracle ending wasn’t really about the Johnnies, though. At least not completely. Everyone loves an underdog’s story, unless you’re a fan of the favorite. Everyone loves an upset, unless you’re the one with an upset stomach after it. But I could still appreciate Augsburg’s effort. Even though I cursed and slammed a program and questioned both the eyesight and the integrity of the refs following the game, a part of me felt happy for Augsburg, for the enemy. I realize I risk having my SJU degree rescinded by admitting that, but it’s true.

Augsburg’s last victory over SJU came in 1997. Since then, the games usually end with the Johnnies scoring 40 or more and the Auggies scoring zero or…zero. Two plays – the two long passes – wiped away most of those memories, if not the actual scores.

Part of me also felt happy for Augsburg’s longtime SID, Don Stoner, who’s indirectly responsible for my career path. Don worked as a writer at the Worthington Daily Globe until leaving the paper for Augsburg in 1997. I replaced Don at the Globe, my first real job after college graduation. Since then Don’s done standout work for the Auggies, who are kings of the wrestling mat but not much else. Don deserves to write a press release and web stories that talk about miracle endings in Augsburg’s favor. The team deserves to dream big, especially after the biggest of victories.

Augsburg improved to 3-0 with the victory. My faith in SJU means I believe there’s still a decent chance the Johnnies finish ahead of Augsburg in the conference. Even if that happens, it won’t change what happened on Saturday in Collegeville, on a picture-perfect day that had everything I could ever want, except for a Johnnies’ victory.

No, I’m still not quite sure what I saw this weekend. But I do know that endings like the ones I saw on Saturday are why we watch and love sports.

Impartial observers love games like Saturday’s because it’s exciting and a great story. Fans of the victors love games like Saturday’s because they provide unforgettable moments, sometimes in forgettable seasons.

And fans of the losing teams? Even those fans should love games like Saturday’s, because they know that eventually, maybe next week or perhaps not until next year, their team will be on the right side of a miracle.


Welcome to the first edition of The Fury Files, an interview that will hopefully become a running feature on TVFury and might even have a different name someday if I can think of something more original, yet still catchy. Subjects will range from sports figures to writers to broadcasters to people not involved in any of those things. I’ll conduct most of the interviews over email and they’ll hopefully be enlightening and entertaining. Maybe even educational.

The first guest is Tom Linnemann, who describes himself on his Twitter account as a “Johnnie, Contrarian/Jackass, Sports Guy, On-Air MN Sports Media Dabbler, Old Enough…to Party.”

Linnemann, a Melrose, Minn., native, is a St. John’s graduate and starred on the football team under legendary coach John Gagliardi. As the Johnnies’ starting quarterback, Linnemann went 27-3 and still holds several school records, including single-season marks for yards (3,489) and touchdowns (46). In 2000, Linnemann led St. John’s to the Division III title game, the Stagg Bowl, where the Johnnies lost a heartbreaking 10-7 game to powerful Mount Union on a last-second field goal.

He was also one of the major figures in The Sweet Season, the 2001 book from Sports Illustrated‘s Austin Murphy, which chronicled Murphy’s time on campus in the fall of 1999, and included an epilogue on the 2000 season. In the book, Murphy – who’s covered the NFL, college football, the Tour de France and everything in between during his three decades at SI – called Linnemann “the best quote I ever met.” Murphy also called him “the Namath of the MIAC” and wrote that he handled a huddle “the way Paul Newman would run a diamond heist.” As far as towering figures of cool, the only things missing were comparisons to Steve McQueen and Keith Richards.

Today, Linnemann works as a Buyer at Target. A popular figure with newspapers and television folks during his playing days, Linnemann remains a fixture on the Twin Cities media scene. This fall, on 1500 ESPN, he’ll pick NFL games with Star Tribune columnist Jim Souhan, and have some college football talk. He also works as a sportscaster for Fox Sports North, where he’ll co-host the Prep Zone. Finally, he makes frequent appearances on the popular RandBall, a blog by Star Tribune writer Michael Rand, Linnemann’s frequent partner in crime. In his spare time? Linnemann’s QBs coach for Wayzata.

Here, Linnemann talks about The Sweet Season, Gagliardi, dealing with a devastating injury, medical redshirts in D3, calling your own plays, being hated, the frightening rise of the Tommies, and much more. Thanks a lot for your time, Tom.

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