Photo and story courtesy of Penn Athletic Communications
PHILADELPHIA -- Al
Bagnoli, who has served as the George A. Munger Head Coach
of Football at the University of Pennsylvania since 1992, announced
on Wednesday that he will retire from the position following the
2014 season. Effective December 1, the head coaching duties will
transfer to the Quakers' current defensive coordinator, Ray
Priore, who will enter his 28th season along the Franklin
Field sidelines in 2014.
“It is with mixed emotion that I announce my resignation as Head Football Coach, effective at the conclusion of the 2014 season,” said Bagnoli. “It has been an honor and privilege to be part of the tremendous tradition and success Penn has enjoyed throughout its long, storied history. I remain appreciative of having the opportunity to work with an exceptional group of student-athletes; a tremendous coaching staff; an active, caring and generous alumni group; and a supportive athletic administration. I want to offer my sincere appreciation to all for making my job so enjoyable during the past 23 seasons.
“I am eagerly looking forward to this upcoming season and feel we have the potential to be an excellent football team,” he continued. “I also remain optimistic about the long-term health of the program. I am confident Ray and his staff will work exceptionally hard and build upon the past success we have enjoyed.”
Said Priore, “I am honored to assume the duties as head football coach at the University in December. Since joining the staff as a young coach in 1987, it has been my dream to follow in the footsteps of the legendary coaches who have walked the sidelines of historic Franklin Field. I wish to thank Coach Bagnoli for allowing me to be a part of his staff for the last 23 years. As a mentor, he provided me the guidance and support to grow as a coach. His knowledge, leadership and ability to manage have earned my deepest respect.”
“I am pleased to announce this transition at the head of our football program,” said Penn’s Director of Athletics, Steve Bilsky. “Obviously, Al will leave big shoes to fill, putting together arguably the finest coaching career in the history of Ivy League football. However, Ray has been there every step of the way alongside Al, and I am confident that he will take the lessons he has learned and forge his own path as he tries to keep that tradition of success going over these next several years. Before this transition takes place, of course, I look forward to watching Al add to his amazing legacy with one more run at the Ivy League title this fall.”
Bagnoli is clearly one of the living legends in his sport. The nine-time Ivy League champion is the active wins leader in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), owner of the second-highest winning percentage in Ivy League history, the only Ivy coach to ever capture nine outright titles, the winningest coach in Penn’s 137-year football history and is one of just six coaches in FCS history to record 200 career wins.
In 32 years as a head coach, Bagnoli's 232 career wins are eighth-most all-time among FCS coaches and are oppossed by just 91 losses. His career winning percentage (71.8%) is third among active FCS coaches. The Central Connecticut State alumnus has accumulated 146 of those wins at Penn (school record) and 110 against Ivy opponents (second all-time). His .714 winning percentage against Ivy opposition is second-best in the history of the league.
Penn’s dominance under Bagnoli, who holds a winning record against all seven Ivy League opponents, is no more evident than at Franklin Field, where the Red and Blue hold two winning streaks of 16 games or greater under the current head coach. The Quakers rattled off 16 victories at home from Oct. 17, 1992 to Oct. 21, 1995 and won 19 games in a row from Sept. 23, 2000 to Nov. 22, 2003. Bagnoli is 80-32 (.714) all-time at Franklin Field.
Entering his 23rd season at the helm of the Quakers in 2014, Coach Bagnoli lays claim to more outright Ivy titles (nine) than any other program has in its entire history. Most recently, Penn won three of four Ivy League outright titles between 2009-12 -- the second time the Quakers have pulled off that feat under Bagnoli, while no other program has done it once during his tenure. In addition, Bagnoli has logged back-to-back undefeated Ivy League seasons three separate times—no other coach has ever accomplished the feat on even one occasion.
Following three straight losing campaigns, Penn went 7-3 in Bagnoli's first season, and then rattled off an NCAA FCS-record 24 consecutive victories with undefeated campaigns in 1993 and 1994. The Quakers then posted another pair of undefeated Ivy seasons in 2000 and 2001 before most recently repeating that feat during the 2009 and 2010 seasons. During those title campaign's Bagnoli's Quakers accumulated the three longest Ivy winning streaks in league history, including a 20-game Ivy unbeaten streak from 2001-04 and more recently, a string of 18 straight Ancient Eight wins from 2008-2011.
Priore has been a part of all that success under Bagnoli. A 10-time Ivy League champion, Priore started at Penn in 1987 as the assistant linebackers coach and was responsible for the outside linebackers the following two seasons. He was kept on staff when Bagnoli took over and led the defensive ends for eight years before taking over the defensive backs and defensive coordinator duties. The 2013 season marked Priore's 16th as Penn’s defensive coordinator and secondaries coach, and his ninth as the associate head coach. He also served as the special teams coordinator and recruiting coordinator during his tenure at Penn.
In 2009, Priore finished as runner-up for the National Coordinator of the Year award after guiding Penn’s defense to the top of the FCS. The Quakers finished No. 1 in the nation in total defense (217.6 ypg) and scoring (9.6 ppg), and were second in the FCS in rushing defense and pass efficiency defense. In all, Penn finished in the top 10 in the nation in eight defensive categories en route to an undefeated Ivy League championship season.
Thirty-eight members of Priore’s defense have been named first-team All-Ivy over the past 10 seasons. In addition, 35 members of Priore's secondary have been named All-Ivy over the past decade, including four that have signed NFL free agent contracts.
Bagnoli, Priore and the Quakers will continue their quest for a league record-tying 17th Ivy title with preseason practice in August and the season opener at Jacksonville on Sept. 20.