JOLIET, Ill. --- University of St. Francis cracked the list of the top 12 area sports stories not once, but twice for 2011 when the Joliet Herald-News and sports editor Dick Goss announced its list in the New Year's Day edition of the newspaper on Sunday.
Earning the No. 2 spot was the announcement of USF legendary head baseball coach Gordie Gillespie's retirement after 59 years of coaching at the end of May. Gillespie, a member of 16 halls of fame, is college baseball's all-time winningest coach with 1,893 victories. That, however, was not his only venture into the coaching ranks. He also served the sports of football and both men's and women's basketball.
In all, he led his teams to a 2,402-1,170-6 record in 110 sports seasons covering baseball (USF, Lewis University, Ripon College (Wis.)), football (USF, Joliet Catholic High School), men's basketball (Lewis) and women's basketball (USF).
Gillespie, 85, currently serves as a special advisor to the USF athletic department and baseball program.
The No. 9 story of the year was USF's football program, which qualified for postseason play – the NAIA Football Championship series – for the first time in 23 years this past fall and captured a school-record 10 victories against only three losses. Included was the program's first-ever playoff win, a 21-17 victory over NAIA No. 8-ranked Morningside College (Iowa) in the first round.
Ranked No. 8 in the NAIA Coaches' Postseason Poll, the Saints also captured memorable victories over NCAA FCS program Georgia State University in the Georgia Dome and NAIA No. 4-ranked William Penn University (Iowa) after trailing by a 27-0 score in the opening half.
USF also earned its first-ever conference title in 2011, sharing the Mid-States Football Association – Midwest League honor with Grand View University (Iowa).