John C. Gregory, 87, of Glen Mills, a former football player, high school coach, and head football coach for universities including Villanova, died Thursday, Dec. 4, of cancer at Maris Grove Senior Living.

During a college coaching career that lasted from 1959 to 1975, Mr. Gregory, known as "Jack," amassed a record of 87-57-4.

He was best known for reshaping the East Stroudsburg University football program between 1959 and 1965. During that time, his teams compiled a 49-11-2 record, winning two state college championships and an Eastern Division state college championship.

Mr. Gregory spent a year as the assistant head coach at the U.S. Naval Academy before returning to the Philadelphia area as head football coach at Villanova University from 1967 to 1969. The Wildcats compiled a winning record of 16-13. Several of his players - Mike Siani, Richie Moore and John Sodowski - went on to play in the NFL.

From 1970 to 1975, Mr. Gregory was head football coach at the University of Rhode Island. His record was 22-33-2. 

Born in East Lansdowne, he attended Lansdowne High School, where he lettered in three sports. He served stateside in the Navy during World War II before returning to Pennsylvania to enroll at East Stroudsburg.

Mr. Gregory was attending a track meet one day between East Stroudsburg and West Chester when he looked across a long jump pit and saw Margaret Ann "Peggy" Peacock, a West Chester student. She returned his glance. They married in 1952.

After graduating, Mr. Gregory started his career as a high school teacher and football coach in Delaware. He coached at both William Penn High School and P.S. DuPont High School.

Mr. Gregory served for two years as a scout for the Green Bay Packers and then became an associate athletic director at Yale University. While there, he helped popularize stadium concerts as a means of raising money for athletics.

Mr. Gregory spent 12 years as the athletic director at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. He added academic advisers to help the college's athletes. In 1984, the Falcons won the NCAA Division 1 College Ice Hockey championship.

Early in his career, Mr. Gregory founded an athletic camp. Although widespread now, an athletic camp was unusual then. His Diamond State Athletic Camps were held at the Sanford School in Hockessin, Del., from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s.

One of his proudest achievements, Mr. Gregory told family, was to help create the DFRC Blue-Gold All Star Football Game. Working closely with Bob Carpenter Jr., then-owner of the Phillies, Mr. Gregory established the game to raise awareness of Delaware citizens with intellectual disabilities.

Surviving Mr. Gregory are sons John and Bruce; two grandchildren; and a brother. His wife died in 2013.

A Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Friday, Dec. 12, at St. Cornelius Catholic Church, 160 Ridge Rd., Chadds Ford. Interment is in SS. Peter and Paul Cemetery.

bcook@phillynews.com

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