Joe Gardi, who guided Hofstra's football team as it moved from Division III to Division I-AA (now the Football Championship Subdivision) in 1994, died Wednesday at the age of 71.
His son, David, confirmed the death to Newsday. David Gardi said his father died of complications from a stroke, the newspaper reported.
Gardi was hired as football coach in 1990, and retired after the 2005 season with a record of 119-62-2 and six NCAA playoff appearances, five of them after the Pride moved to Division I-AA.
"He was like a father figure to me," Morris said. "He was one of the most influential people in my life. He was one of the guys who encouraged me to go into coaching. He will always be a part of my life and a part of my family's life."
Gardi, an offensive guard at Maryland from 1956 to 1960, revived two high school programs as coach before returning to the Terrapins as an assistant coach. He coached in the now-defunct World Football league, was an assistant with the Jets, and was an assistant supervisor of NFL officials from 1985 to 1990 before joining Hofstra.
ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas contributed to this report.