Nothing got by Jim Margraff. As the head football coach at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore for 29 years, Margraff, a Suffolk County native, made a habit of planning everything. Not a moment, whether it be in a game or a practice, wasn’t thoroughly thought out or meticulously vetted to his satisfaction.
“He didn’t believe in wasting time,” said Alice Margraff, his wife of 26 years. “Every practice, every minute was scripted and planned. Every play, he knew how likely something would occur. He was a planner for sure.”
Margraff, who grew up in North Babylon and Miller Place, died suddenly Jan. 2 at his home in Timonium, Maryland, a Baltimore suburb, Johns Hopkins announced on Thursday. He was 58.
Margraff was born April 18, 1960 in Germany, where his father was stationed as a member of the United States Army. He spent his childhood in North Babylon and moved to Miller Place shortly before starting high school. Margraff, who was Johns Hopkins starting quarterback from 1978-81, graduated in 1982 with a degree in social and behavioral sciences. Following graduation, he served as an assistant football coach at Johns Hopkins, Miller Place High School, University of Albany, University of Pennsylvania, University of Rochester and Columbia before landing his first and only head coaching job at his alma matta.
Johns Hopkins hired Margraff as their head coach on Jan. 12, 1990, kicking of a historical run for the program. Margraff is the winningest head coach in school history, compiling a record of 221-89-3. He won a league-record 14 Centennial Conference championships and advanced to the NCAA playoffs 10 times.
In 2018, Margraff guided his team to a 12-2 record, including three NCAA Division III tournament victories before falling to Mount Union in the semifinals. The run was highlighted by a 58-27 second round victory against Frostburg State in which Johns Hopkins scored 29 points in the third quarter. He was named 2018 D3football.com National Coach of the Year.
“Just a couple weeks ago, he said ‘when I die I’ll see three things — my wedding day, my children being born, and the third quarter of the Frostburg game,” Alice said.
Margraff loved the art of coaching. He thrived on making his players better people.
“He thought of himself as a teacher first,” Alice said. “He was always teaching. Even if you sat and watched a football game with him, he’d stop the TV, get up, explain the play, and rewind it.”
While he was tough on his players, he cared deeply about their well-being, Alice said.
“He cared more about what kind of people they were, that they did the right thing on and off the field,” she said. “It was important to him that they took advantage of the education at Hopkins. He always had time for his players, whether it was a personal issue or a football issue. He was always very honest about where they stood, what they needed to do to improve, why they were or weren’t playing, or where they were on the depth chart.”
Margaff was a dedicated family man who friends described as unfailingly kind.
“He would give you the shirt off his back. He was just that nice of a guy,” former classmate Maryanne Martin, 58, of Sound Beach, said. “He’s an example of what a good human being is.”
Said Greg Chimera, the Johns Hopkins offensive coordinator: " We had a very similar sense of humor. He was just a great guy to be around. One of my favorite things about him was that you could just plop down on his desk and talk to him for an hour about nothing. He was such a good person to be around.”
Margraff is survived by Alice, children Megan, James and Will, and sisters Jan Elliot of Colorado and Jackie Stanton of Vermont. A memorial service will be held on Jan. 26 at Johns Hopkins University, the University announced.