By Bill Campbell
Al Bagnoli, head football coach at Penn, will start his 23rd and last season in that job this fall. He announced his plan to retire earlier this spring but the reality of his departure is just setting in with his players and fellow coaches. Harvard head football coach, Rim Murphy, said that he “would hate to be the next guy” to coach the Quakers after the legendary Bagnoli. That guy will be Penn defensive coordinator, Ray Priore, who has the proverbial big shoes to fill. Cornell’s coach, David Archer, recently recalled that Bagnoli was the first guy to shake his hand at the coaches’ meeting when the school hired him in 2013, a gesture he genuinely appreciated. Bagnoli’s passion for college football, his commitment to the game and its players, is not only extraordinary – it’s unprecedented. Penn will miss his presence both on and off the field.
Bagnoli, 61, has led his team on to Franklin Field for 23 years. He has won 9 Ivy League titles, played 6 undefeated Ivy League seasons, and compiled a record of 146-72. When you add those wins and losses to his prior coaching record at Union College, his total is 232-91. A guy with that kind of stats should be in someone’s Hall of Fame and, no doubt, Bagnoli will be as time moves on. Penn beat Dartmouth last season in a legendary four-overtime contest. Big Green coach, Buddy Teevens, was asked for his thoughts after the loss and could only answer, “It’s Al. The admiration [is] for what he does on the field and off the field. It’s Al.” It’s likely that every coach feels the same respect for Coach Bagnoli as Teevens and will see his departure as a bittersweet one for the Ivy.
While noting that he was “humbled” upon hearing his peers’ remarks, Bagnoli also said that he’s grateful to have been part of the Ivy League’s “special fraternity” of coaches, athletes and people. “I’ve been fortunate to be part of some really good moments,” he remarked, “I’ve been blessed to deal with a great institution and it’s an honor to do this for so long.” Penn has been picked to finish fourth in the Ivy this year. While it may sound like a cliché, it’s got to be said: Al Bagnoli finishes first in any league, any season.
Although he started the back nine with a double bogey on the tenth and a bogey on the eleventh holes at the PGA Championship yesterday, Rory McIlroy got back on track and birdied five of the last seven to put a 66 on the tote board at the end of the day. He’s one behind tournament leaders Ryan Palmer, Lee Westwood and Kevin Chappell. McIlroy was ranked number one in the world going into this competition at Valhalla Golf Club out in Louisville, Kentucky. He’s won the British Open and the WGC Bridgestone Invitational this year and is the hottest news in the golf world at the moment. It should be in interesting weekend for anyone who likes to pick up a club and hit that little white ball – or to watch the pros do it.
The Eagles will meet the Chicago Bears in their first exhibition game tonight. Coach Chip Kelly has said that the starts will not stay on the field for long since the first preseason contest is an opportunity to observe the backup players who are fighting for time or slots on the roster on the field. Defensive coordinator, Billy Davis, said, “The goal of the preseason games it to get great evaluation of the players so that when we pick our team, we pick it correctly.” From here, the goal is to avoid injury to the starters so that on opening day there is a healthy set of players suiting up to start the season. It will be fun, in the meantime, to see the Birds take the field again.
After a grueling couple of games in Washington, D.C., the Phillies came home to sweep the Houston Astros 2-1, 10-3 and 6-5 this week. Last night’s game was capped by a Ryan Howard grand slam in the eighth inning. Howard smashed a 93 m.p.h. fastball from pitcher Tony Sipp for the go-ahead and, after reaching the dugout, stepped out again to acknowledge the fans’ cheers. It’s good to see Howard turning a corner. The Mets will be in for the weekend. Perhaps the Phillies can put something together in these dog days of summer.
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