For the Penn football team to send head coach Al Bagnoli off with a championship in his final season, it will have to defy the odds.
Despite winning three of the last five Ivy League titles and nine overall in Bagnoli’s 22-year tenure, the Quakers were picked to finish fourth in the eight-team conference in Tuesday’s preseason media poll.
Princeton, which shared the Ivy crown last year with Harvard, was picked to win the 2014 Ivy title, ahead of Harvard and Dartmouth.
The Quakers, who lost their final four games of the 2013 season to finish tied for fourth in the league and below .500 overall for just the second time in Bagnoli’s illustrious tenure, were picked ahead of Yale, Brown, Columbia and Cornell, in order.
“It’s hard to continually win in this league,” said Bagnoli, who in April announced that the 2014 season would be his final one at the helm. “I think we got humbled a little bit last year. I think our kids are much more in tune with what we want and how to go about it. And there’s much greater excitement heading into the season.”
Much of Tuesday’s teleconference focused on Bagnoli’s impending retirement, with coaches from around the league offering their praise and gratitude for all he did as the dean of Ivy League coaches.
As his habit, the Penn head coach tried to deflect attention away from himself. But Bagnoli, who’s set to pass the torch to longtime assistant Ray Priore as soon as the season ends on Nov. 22 at Cornell, also accepted plaudits for his past accomplishments while eagerly looking ahead to the 2014 season, which opens on Sept. 20 at Jacksonville.
Penn’s Ivy League season begins with a road game at Dartmouth on Oct. 4.
“I’m certainly appreciative and somewhat humbled by all of the kind comments from all of the coaches,” Bagnoli said. “Really, the pleasure’s been all mine. It’s been a great 22 years and hopefully we’ll have a great 23rd year.”