Following the 2014 football season, Al Bagnoli retired as the George A. Munger Head Coach of Football at Penn, after 23 years. On December 1, he moved into a new position in the athletic department in the position of Director of Special Projects.
In the case of the George A. Munger Head Coach of Football Al Bagnoli, the numbers don’t lie. As 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 as one of just six coaches in FCS history to record 200 career wins, Bagnoli is clearly one of the living legends in his sport.
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.
In 32 years as a head coach, Bagnoli currently stands at 232 career wins, which are oppossed by just 91 losses. His career winning percentage (71.8%) is third among active FCS coaches. In the final week of the 2008 campaign, the Quakers captured the 200th career win in Bagnoli’s illustrious career. There have been only five other FCS coaches in NCAA history to have accomplished that feat. 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 better than any other coach in the history of the league.
Ring No. 9
Between 2009-12, Penn won three of four Ivy League titles outright - a feat which had not been accomplished since 1977-80, but has now been duplicated twice by Bagnoli in a decade.
In 2012, the Quakers had to run the table against the first-second-third-and-fourth-place teams in the league in order to win the title. They did exactly that with four straight last-minute victories. Penn beat Brown with a late game-winning field goal, stopped Princeton on third-and-goal in the final seconds, topped Ivy-favorite Harvard on Senior Day and, with a backup quarterback making his first career start, scored the game-winning touchdown with 1:00 left at Cornell. It was the program's 16th Ivy title (second-most all-time), 13th outright title (league record) and Coach Bagnoli's ninth title overall (one behind the all-time record) and ninth outright (league record).
In 2010, Bagnoli guided the Quakers through some extraordinary adversity. Prior to the season, captain Owen Thomas and longtime coach Dan “Lake” Staffieri each passed away in April. Despite the turbulent offseason and a season of reminders, Bagnoli led the Quakers to nine wins in 10 games—their only loss coming late in the fourth quarter at No. 1 Villanova. In one of the most emotional season openers in team history, the Quakers rallied to top Lafayette, 19-14, and claimed the program’s 800th all-time win to become just the third school in FCS history to reach that mark. Later that season, at Bucknell on Oct. 9, Bagnoli became the all-time winningest coach in Penn history when he broke George Woodruff’s 109-year-old school record with his 125th win along the Penn sideline. Six weeks later, the Quakers raised the Ivy trophy after a second straight undefeated Ivy campaign. Penn also finished the year ranked in the Top 25 for the second straight season, finishing at No. 16/18.
In 2009, the Red and Blue won eight straight, including all seven Ivy contests, to finish the year. The defense finished the season ranked No. 1 in the nation and boasted the co-Ivy League player of the year in All-American linebacker Jake Lewko. The Red and Blue were also the most disciplined team in all of Division I football as they finished with fewer penalties and penalty yards than any other team, edging out FBS-leader Navy.
Reading Into The Numbers
You only need to look at the dizzying number in the win column over Bagnoli’s 32-year career to know why he stands apart from his peers.
♦ His 110 Ivy League victories rank him first among active Ancient Eight head coaches and second all-time in League history.
♦ Bagnoli won his 100th game at Penn at the start of the 2006 season with the Quakers knocking off No. 22 Lafayette on the road in the season opener. He became just the second Penn coach to reach the century mark in wins, joining the legendary Hall of Fame coach George Woodruff. Only eight other Ivy League head coaches have recorded 100 wins at an Ancient Eight school. Seven have been elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.
♦ The 2010 season did not just mark another championship year, but also another undefeated season for the Quakers under Bagnoli. For the third time in his tenure, Penn had back-to-back undefeated Ivy seasons, going unbeaten in 2009 as well. No other coach in Ivy history has ever led a team to back-to-back perfect seasons in League play, while Bagnoli has done so three times.
♦ Penn’s dominance under Bagnoli 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 77-30 (.720) all-time at Franklin Field.
♦ Penn set an NCAA record with an even more impressive streak that carried Bagnoli and the Quakers through nearly three seasons. The program won 24 consecutive games between 1993-95, winning back-to-back undefeated Ivy titles in 1993 and 1994.
♦ He possesses a winning record against all seven Ivy League teams, and 16 of the 20 teams his Quakers have faced during his tenure.
♦ Bagnoli's Quakers own 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 Ivy wins from 2008-2011.
♦ Another number that shouts for attention is 12 — where Penn finished in the I-AA polls after the 2003 season. The Quakers were ranked 20th after the 2009 season and 16th after the 2010 campaign.
The Bagnoli Era - The Early Years
Each season Bagnoli finishes at the helm of the Red and Blue is yet another season’s worth of proof for historians that the Bagnoli Era could be the greatest in the program’s 137 years. It could be argued that Munger or Woodruff turned in more successful reigns at the helm of the Red and Blue. However, its a tough argument when looking at the facts — nine outright Ivy League championships, 146 overall victories, 110 Ancient Eight wins and the longest winning streak in FCS history.
The story begins just two days into the calendar year 1992, when on a cold Philadelphia winter’s day Bagnoli was introduced as the 21st head coach of the Red and Blue. His mission was to restore the pride of a program that, despite winning six Ivy banners in 10 seasons, had slipped with three consecutive losing campaigns.
Bagnoli did not disappoint the Penn faithful, immediately guiding the Quakers to a 7-3 overall record and a 5-2 third-place finish in the Ivy League, the Red and Blue’s highest in four years. It was also the second-best turnaround in program history and a sign of things to come. One year later, in 1993, Penn returned to the top of the Ancient Eight for the first time in five years, as the second-year coach navigated Penn to just the ninth undefeated campaign in program history (10-0 overall and 7-0 Ivy), and first since 1986.
For an encore, Bagnoli led the Red and Blue to its second-straight perfect season (9-0 overall and 7-0 Ivy) in 1994, making him only the second coach in program history to accomplish that feat (George Woodruff was the first in 1894 and 1895). His back-to-back Ivy championships were Penn’s first multiple titles since winning a record five-straight from 1982 to 1986.
Success Came Early and Often
When the smoke finally cleared from the Quakers’ early ride under Bagnoli, they had also posted a 24-game winning streak dating from Nov. 30, 1992 to Sept. 30, 1995, which still stands as an FCS record (Montana tied, but failed to break it in 2002). Ivy championship number three under Bagnoli came in 1998 and marked a trend of three-straight trips to Ithaca, N.Y., in which Penn returned with the Ivy trophy. The Quakers went 8-2 overall and 6-1 in the Ancient Eight. Bagnoli clinched his fourth Ivy League crown after a convincing 45-15 victory over Cornell at Schoellkopf Field on Nov. 18, 2000. The win not only gave him his fourth Ancient Eight title, but also marked the eighth time in his 11 years at Penn that one of his teams won at least seven games in a season.
His fifth banner came in 2002 and signaled the Red and Blue’s third championship in five years. Penn posted its third nine-win season under Bagnoli in the process, going 9-1 overall and 7-0 in the Ivy League. Penn’s sixth Ivy title under Bagnoli and 13th overall capped a revisit to perfection, as the Quakers finished 10-0 in 2003 and 7-0 in the Ancient Eight for the second-straight season. The Class of 2004 ended its reign in West Philadelphia with a 26-2 Ivy mark and were unscathed at Franklin Field in 19 contests, the only class to leave Penn unbeaten in Franklin Field.
During His Watch
In addition to the team’s success, Bagnoli’s players have also reaped many benefits during his 22 years as head coach. Among the players to have put on the Red and Blue for Bagnoli, three have been drafted into the National Football League (Jeff Hatch in 2002 by the New York Giants, Jim Finn in 1999 by Chicago and Mitch Marrow in 1998 by Carolina); 15 have signed NFL free agent contracts (2013 - Brandon Copleand by Tennessee Titans; 2012 - Greg Van Roten by Green Bay; 2009 - Jake Lewko by Tennessee Titans; 2007 - Sean Estrada by San Francisco; 2005 - Duvol Thompson by St. Louis; 2004 - Michael Powers by Cincinnati and Ben Noll by St. Louis; 2003 - Vince Alexander by the N.Y. Jets, Stephen Faulk by San Francisco and Rob Milanese by New England; 2002 - Gavin Hoffman by Cincinnati, Kris Ryan by Detroit, Kunle Williams by Cleveland; 2001 - Ben Zagorski by Detroit; 1996 - Miles Macik by Detroit); five have been named Asa A. Bushnell Cup winners as the Ivy League’s Most Valuable Player (Jake Lewko in 2009, Mike Mitchell in 2003, Gavin Hoffman in 2000, Jim Finn in 1998 and Pat Goodwillie in 1994); two were tabbed as the Ancient Eight’s Rookie of the Year (Miles Macik in 1993 and Pat Goodwillie in 1992); seven were named first-team All-America (Lewko in 2009, Chris Clark in 2003, Hatch in 2001, Marrow in 1996, Macik in 1995 and 1993, Tom McGarrity in 1995 and Goodwillie in 1994); four earned NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships (Peter Veldman in 2003, Matt Rader in 1999, John Bishop in 1998 and Michael Turner in 1995); and 181 players have been All-Ivy League selections, including 12 first-team selections in 2003, a league record, and 21 overall selections in 2010, also an Ivy record.
A Union Man
Bagnoli made his collegiate head coaching debut at Union College in 1982, guiding the Dutchmen to their first winning season in 12 years with an 8-1 record. The following season, Bagnoli guided the program to an NCAA Division III title-game appearance and a 10-2 record, garnering East Region Coach of the Year honors.
The Dutchmen were named the ECAC’s Team of the Year for the 1983 campaign. Union reached the NCAA playoffs six times and posted 10-consecutive winning seasons during Bagnoli’s tenure in Schenectady, N.Y. In 1989, Bagnoli guided the Dutchmen to the program’s greatest season ever, rolling to a 10-0 regular-season record and three-straight NCAA playoff victories en route to the NCAA Division III National Championship game (Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl). Two years later, Bagnoli received the Eastman Kodak Award as the American Football Coaches Association Region I Coach of the Year.
Prior to being named head coach of the Dutchmen, Bagnoli served as Union’s defensive coordinator from 1978-82. Bagnoli is a two-time recipient (1993 and 1994) of the Scotty Whitelaw Award as the Division I-AA Coach of the Year, voted by the Metropolitan New York Football Writers Association.
While at Union, Bagnoli’s 1991 team had the nation’s top scoring offense, averaging 46.1 points per game, while his 1984 squad boasted the top defense, allowing a measly 4.6 points per game.
Time For More?
Bagnoli is a member of the FCS rules committee for the AFCA. In 1989, he was the selection chairman of the Albany Chapter of the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame, which he established. From 1987 to 1991, Bagnoli served as a panel member of the New York State Task Force on Athletics. In addition, Bagnoli was also the Eastern Regional Chairperson for the NCAA Division III All-America teams from 1984 to 1986.
The Coaching Bug Strikes
Bagnoli’s coaching career began while he was pursuing his master’s degree in educational administration from the University of Albany. He served as a graduate assistant coach for one season before becoming Albany’s defensive coordinator from 1976-77.
Bagnoli earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education and history from Central Connecticut State in 1975. During his undergrad years, he played three seasons of varsity football. Central Connecticut State’s record during that span was 23-5.
Keeping It In the Family
Bagnoli and his wife, Maryellen, reside in Mt. Laurel, N.J. Their oldest son, Jeff, graduated in 2003 from the College of Arts and Sciences at Penn, while youngest son Greg graduated from the College in the spring of 2005. Both lettered and served as captains for the sprint football team at Penn, and also played on the club ice hockey team. Jeff was a member of the Quakers’ 2000 undefeated sprint football championship team, while both won a title on the club hockey team in 2002. Bagnoli’s daughter, Amanda, graduated from the University in 2008 and was a member of the Quakers’ cheerleading team.