Duquesne is currently ranked No. 2 in The Sports Network/CSTV I-AA Mid-Major poll; Penn is No. 23.
Sept. 17, 2003
BRAND NEW DAY
After 126 years and 1,233 games it may come as a surprise that Penn has not played at least every college football program in the nation at least once, especially when factoring in the Quakers' 2003 opening-day opponent's long-standing history. The Red and Blue kick off their 127th season (second to only Princeton and Rutgers) on the gridiron with first-time foe Duquesne at Franklin Field in what will also be Penn's NCAA-record 1,234th contest.
It is a little shocking to think that these two program's paths have never crossed at least once when considering Penn and Duquesne have been fielding a football team since the late 1800s. The Quakers did visit Pittsburgh, Pa. once to take on the Duquesne athletic club in 1895 in a meeting the Red and Blue won handily, 30-0.
While the Quakers prepare for game number one of the 2003 campaign, the defending Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) champion Dukes have played twice - dropping their season-opener at Bucknell (the team's only common opponent) before rebounding with a home-opening victory over Butler last week. Duquesne enters the contest ranked No. 2 in The Sports Network/CSTV I-AA Mid-Major poll.
Although Penn has yet to play a contest this season, the Red and Blue have been ranked each week in The Sports Network/CSTV I-AA poll. The Quakers started the preseason ranked No. 20 and enter this week at No. 23.
Despite winning its third Ivy League title in five sea-sons in 2002, Penn enters the 2003 campaign with something to prove. Not since the Quakers captured back-to-back Ivy League crowns in 1993-1994 has an Ancient Eight team repeated as champion - the longest drought of a repeat winner in the League's history.
Of the Ivy League's 66 champions, only 13 have gone on to recapture the banner the following season. And only five of those teams managed to string together more than two consecutive titles (Penn holds the League record of five-straight championships from 1982 to 1986).
Thus, even though the Red and Blue shattered the Ancient Eight record book en route to the Ivy League's 15th undefeated season in 2002, Penn knows full well that is guarantees nothing in 2003. The Quakers need to look only to the 1999 and 2001 seasons for proof.
The Quakers enter their first week of action ranked No. 23 in The Sports Network/CSTV poll. This is the first time since 1995 that the Red and Blue have been ranked each week leading up to the start of the campaign, although they have been idle for three weeks. Penn was ranked in the USA Today/ESPN poll at No. 21 to start off the campaign, but have since fallen out of the rankings.
In addition to the early rankings, the Quakers were also selected to capture a second-straight Ivy League crown, receiving 12 of a possible 16 first-place votes in the 2003 Ivy League Football Preseason Media Poll.
Penn and Duquesne's first-ever meeting in football takes on even more significance as it will pit two of the top three active winningest coaches in I-AA in the Red and Blue's Al Bagnoli and the Dukes' Greg Gattuso. Bagnoli enters his 22nd season as a head coach in 2003 (12th with Penn), while Gattuso is in year 11 at Duquesne. Gattuso entered the 2003 campaign in second place, but has fallen to third after opening the year at 1-1 (82-26, .759). Bagnoli is currently second behind Dayton's Mike Kelly (209-41-1, .833) with a career winning percentage of .761 (162-51).