Al Bagnoli wants his 23rd season running the show at Penn to be just like the rest. Focus on the Quakers winning the Ivy title, developing his players from kids into men and dealing with the ups and the down of the game as smoothly as possible.
It won’t be, though, because Bagnoli’s 23rd season will also be his last, having already announced he’ll be stepping down when it’s over and handing the reins to longtime defensive coordinator, Ray Priore.
"Now let’s play some football,’’ is his message.
"I don’t want it to be about me," said the 61-year-old Bagnoi, whose team went only 4-6 last year after being picked to win the Ivies for what would’ve been a record fourth time in five seasons. "It’s always about the kids, about the program, about Penn.That should stay the same. We’re gonna have to deal with distractions and distractions come in many forms."
But make no mistake, sending the school’s winningest coach—146-72 with nine Ivy titles—out properly is very much on their minds.
"Basically, it’s like we’re playing for the Joe Paterno of the Ivy League," said sophomore quarterback Alek Torgersen, who’s got a rifle arm but has seen only limited duty to this point. "It’s gonna definitely be a motivating factor for us to win it an end his career on a high note.But he says we’re not playing for him. He just wants us to go win football games."
"It’s been very clear that this is his last year," said all-Ivy linebacker Dan Davis. "Everyone respects his legacy.It’s only fair to send him out the right way."
But for Bagnoli it will be business as usual, beginning Sept. 20 at Jacksonville. At least until it’s not.
"Maybe it will hit me on the bus ride back from Cornell (Penn’s final game. Nov. 22) that I don’t have to go to work the next day," he laughed. "Who the hell knows?I just know that at a certain point in time there’s gotta be change. It’s just inevitable I think it makes for a good story. But there’s pressure to win in this league, so we’ve got to resist the temptation of giving them more pressure.I’ve been blessed to have 22 enjoyable years and I’m looking forward to the 23rd be enjoyable, too."
Especially if it should lead to one last another celebration on his way out the door.