Joe Gardi served as head football coach at Hofstra University from 1990 to 2005. He recorded a 119-62-2 record in his 16 seasons at Hofstra. Both his win total and .650 winning percentage rank second in Hofstra Football coaching history.
Under Joe's guidance, Hofstra made the jump from NCAA Division III in 1990 to I-AA in 1994. Since then, the Pride has become a nationally recognized I-AA program and earned five NCAA I-AA championship bids in the last 11 seasons. In Joe’s tenure, more than 90 school records, seven ECAC marks, and four NCAA records were either been topped or tied by the Pride. He also recorded 10 winning seasons during his Hofstra coaching career.
Joe came to Hofstra after five years (1985-90) as assistant supervisor of officials for the National Football League. He recorded the third undefeated regular season in school history in his first year at Hofstra in 1990. He also recorded the school's first-ever NCAA playoff victories, an NCAA East Regional championship and a berth in the national semifinals in 1990. Under his guidance the team posted eight victories in 13 I-AA games in 1991 and 1992, as the Pride prepared for the move to I-AA. Hofstra recorded a 6-3-1 mark in 1993, and an 8-1-1 record and a 22nd-place national ranking in 1994, the Pride’s first official season as a I-AA member.
In 1995 Joe directed the Pride to a 10-1-0 regular season (losing only to I-AA national finalist Marshall, 30-28), as well as to the I-AA playoffs and Hofstra's first-ever I-AA top 10 national rankingfinishing ninth at the end of the regular season. For his efforts, he received numerous postseason coaching honors, including the Scotty Whitelaw Award from the Metropolitan Football Writers Association as the ECAC I-AA Coach of the Year, and the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame Division I-AA Coach of the Year. A year later Hofstra was ranked in the top 10 in four team statistical categories, including rushing defense, total defense and scoring defense.
In 1997 Hofstra posted a 9-2 regular season record, was ranked 14th in the country and received its second I-AA playoff bid. In 1998 the Pride posted an 8-3 record, attained their then highest-ever I-AA ranking at fifth in the nation.
Hofstra equaled its best I-AA regular season record with a 10-1 mark in 1999 and was ranked as high as fourth in the country. The Pride received their third NCAA I-AA Championship bid, advanced to the quarterfinals, finished the year with an 11-2 overall record and captured the Lambert Cup as the top I-AA program in the East.
In 2000 Hofstra recorded an 8-3 regular season record and was ranked as high as fourth in the country in I-AA. The Pride received their fourth I-AA Playoff bid and defeated Furman on the road in the opening round before losing to eventual national champion Georgia Southern in the quarterfinals. Hofstra finished the year 9-4 and was ranked seventh in the final I-AA poll by The Sports Network.
In 2001 Hofstra ended its I-AA independent status by joining the Atlantic 10 Football Conference. Joe directed the Pride to a 9-2 regular season record including a 7-2 conference mark, the League’s co-championship, the A-10’s automatic bid to the NCAA I-AA Playoffs and a Top 10 final national ranking. A year later, the Pride posted a 6-6 record including a win over #19 Massachusetts. The 2003 season was a major rebuilding season but the Pride still recorded victories over #7 Villanova and #19 Northeastern. Hofstra returned to their high-scoring ways in 2004, recording 401 points to become just the fourth team in school history to score 400 or more points in a season. In his final season at Hofstra, the Pride posted a 7-4 record with wins over #7 Massachusetts and #13 Delaware and just missed out on the I-AA Playoffs.
From 1976 through 1984, Joe served as an assistant coach with the Jets under three head coaches. He served as special teams/tight ends coach under Lou Holtz in 1976; special teams/linebackers coach from 1977 to 1980 and defensive coordinator in 1981 and 1982 under Walt Michaels; and assistant head coach/defensive coordinator under Joe Walton in 1983 and 1984. In 1981 the Jets formed the best defensive unit in the American Football Conference, allowing just 304 yards per game, while leading the NFL with 66 sacks. In the strike-shortened 1982 season, the Jets advanced to the AFC Championship game before dropping a 14-0 decision to Miami, despite holding the Dolphins to just 197 yards in the contest.
A native of Harrison, New Jersey, Gardi was a first-team all-state selection as an offensive guard at Harrison High School in 1955. He attended the University of Maryland from 1956 to 1960 and was the Terrapins’ co-captain and Unsung Hero Award winner as an offensive tackle and linebacker in 1959. At 20 years old, Gardi signed a contract with the Washington Redskins, playing in two preseason games in 1960 and also had a tryout with the Buffalo Bills in 1961.
In 1964 Gardi returned to football as head coach at The Oratory Prep in Summit, New Jersey. After a 0-9 season in his first year, he took that program, which had lost 37 consecutive games prior to his arrival, to records of 6-3 in 1965 and 5-4 in 1966. Gardi moved on to Roselle Park High School (New Jersey) to become head football
coach and teacher at a school that had not recorded a winning season in 10 years. After a 2-7 first season, Gardi led Roselle Park to a 6-3 mark in 1968 and a 9-0 slate and the state championship in 1969.
Gardi returned to the University of Maryland in 1970 as head freshman coach and recruiter. In his first season of recruiting the Long Island-Metropolitan area, Gardi signed five All-Long Island team players, including Bob Avellini from New Hyde Park, Joe Brancato and Frank Russell from Wantagh, and Jamie Franklin from Brentwood. The following season, he was named to coach the Terrapins’ varsity offensive line. In 1972 Maryland’s new coach, Jerry Claiborne, rehired Gardi to direct the receivers.
In 1974 Gardi left Maryland for a whirlwind tenure in the World Football League. He served as running backs and special teams coach for the Philadelphia Bell in 1974. Gardi was promoted to interim head coach for the 1975 season opener and led the Bell to a 31-30 victory over the Portland Thunder. Moving to the
front office after that victory, Gardi was named head coach of the Thunder two months later and posted a 2-1 record in three games before the league folded.