Eddie Robinson Award Finalists
PHILADELPHIA - Captain Owen Thomas and Coach Dan "Lake" Staffieri each passed away in April, but Al Bagnoli, the George A. Munger Head Coach of Football at the University of Pennsylvania, united the Quakers toward their second straight undefeated Ivy League championship. In a year in which he became the all-time winningest coach in school history, Bagnoli was named as a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Award, given annually to the top coach in the FCS. Twenty candidates, including three former winners, were named Monday to the Eddie Robinson Award ballot by The Sports Network.
Penn's only loss came late in the fourth quarter on the road at No. 1 Villanova. Penn won its final eight games and completed back-to-back undefeated Ivy League seasons. That feat has occurred only two other times in the 55-year history of the league. Both occasions were Penn teams coached by Bagnoli. The 1993 and 1994 Quakers accomplished the feat as well as the 2002 and 2003 teams.
Penn owns the longest active conference winning streak in the nation with 15 straight Ivy League wins - the third-longest streak in league history. The Quakers have won 10 straight Ivy League road games and 17 straight over unranked opposition. Penn was superior in every aspect of the game as the Red and Blue led the Ivy League in nearly every single statistical category. On offense, Penn finished in the top 10 in the nation in rushing offense and fewest sacks allowed. On defense, they were among the top 10 nationally in scoring defense, total defense, rushing defense and sacks, while on special teams the kickoff return unit was the fourth-best in the country.
Bagnoli hit several milestones this season. In one of the most emotional games in program history - the first without senior captain-elect Owen Thomas - Penn fell behind 14-3 to Lafayette, but rallied for a 19-14 victory, the 800th win in program history. Only two other FCS teams have accomplished the feat.
Three weeks later, Bagnoli won his 125th game at Penn to break a 116-year-old school record. George Woodruff had held the title as Penn's all-time winningest head coach since 1894 until Bagnoli broke the mark on Oct. 9, 2010 at Bucknell.
On Saturday, en route to clinching the program's 15th Ivy title, Bagnoli also won his 97th Ivy League game (third-most all-time) and now owns the highest Ivy winning percentage in league history. Bagnoli is 97-36 against Ivy opponents for a winning percentage of .729, which tops Princeton's Dick Colman's .726 (61-23) from 1957-68.
This is the fourth time since 2002 that Coach Bagnoli has been named a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Award. He finished ninth in 2002, eighth in 2003 and 10th in 2009. The Ivy League does not name a Coach of the Year, but Bagnoli has won a league-record eight outright Ivy titles in his 19-year tenure. His eight overall titles are second-most in Ivy history behind Yale's Carm Cozza, who finished with 10 Ivy title rings.
The National Coach of the Year ballots, along with ballots for the Walter Payton (Player of the Year) and Buck Buchanan (Defensive Player of the Year) awards, were released and distributed to voters on Monday. Voting will be conducted this week and winners will be announced on Thursday, Jan. 6 during the 24th annual Sports Network awards dinner in Frisco, Texas, the night before the FCS championship game. A panel of nearly 175 sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries will select the Robinson Award winner.