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Joe Gardi, Jets Assistant Who Guided Hofstra


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Joe Gardi, a longtime assistant coach for the Jets who went on to coach Hofstra to a host of winning seasons while taking the university out of the small-time college football ranks, died Wednesday in Manhasset, N.Y. Gardi, who lived in Sayville, N.Y., was 71.

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Kevin P. Coughlin for The New York Times

Joe Gardi was 119-62-2 and had 10 winning seasons at Hofstra.

His son, David, said he died at North Shore University Hospital of complications from a stroke.

Gardi molded the Jets’ defensive schemes out of Weeb Ewbank Hall at Hofstra’s Hempstead campus on Long Island, working as an assistant coach from 1976 to 1984.

In the winter of 1990, he became Hofstra’s coach and moved into its field house on the south side of the campus. He had only gone across Hempstead Turnpike, but his two football worlds could not have been further apart. Hofstra played in Division III, where athletic scholarships were not given.

“I just wanted to be called Coach again,” Gardi said.

Gardi coached his first Hofstra team to an undefeated regular season and a berth in the Division III national semifinals. Two years later, Hofstra ventured as far as a visit to the University of Montana at Missoula.

“Three of my guys went down on one play,” Gardi once told The New York Times. “I ran out there and told them: ‘Hey, this is embarrassing. Two of you better get up.’ And two of ’em did, but the third guy was hurt worse than the others.”

Hofstra lost, 50-6, but Gardi had many good years ahead. Hofstra moved into Division I-AA in 1994, and a year later its smallish wide receiver Wayne Chrebet began a long career with the Jets.

Gardi took Hofstra to a 10-1 record in ’95, and his team went 10-1 in the 1999 regular season, receiving the Lambert Cup as the top Division I-AA team in the East.

Gardi retired after the 2005 season with a record of 119-62-2 in 16 years at Hofstra, 10 of them winning seasons. In addition to Chrebet, he coached Marques Colston, currently an outstanding receiver with the New Orleans Saints, and Raheem Morris, the coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who was also an assistant under Gardi.

A native of Harrison, N.J., Gardi played offensive tackle and linebacker at the University of Maryland, where he was later an assistant coach, and coached in the World Football League before joining the Jets in 1976 as an assistant to Lou Holtz.

Gardi was the defensive coordinator under Walt Michaels when the Jets reached the American Football Conference championship game in January 1983 behind the front four known as the Sack Exchange, and he was later assistant head coach/defensive coordinator under Joe Walton. He spent five seasons as an assistant supervisor of officials for the N.F.L. before coming to Hofstra.

In addition to his son, of Garden City, N.Y., Gardi is survived by his wife, Audrey; his daughter, Joanne Gardi, of Bayport, N.Y.; and four grandchildren.

When Gardi’s Hofstra team moved into Division I-AA, the university expanded its stadium. But last season, Hofstra was drawing an average of 4,260 fans at its 15,000-seat field. Six months ago, citing costs and waning interests among fans, Hofstra announced that its football program had come to an end.

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