Columbia, Penn linked with new coaches, new beginnings
NEW YORK (STATS) - Columbia has a new head football coach and everybody is talking about him, barely mentioning the previous coach.
Penn has a new head football coach and no one is talking about him, always mentioning the previous coach.
The situations at the Ivy League's two urban schools couldn't be so different and yet so similar at the same time.
But Al Bagnoli, who hopes to revive Columbia's downtrodden program after leaving Penn's traditional Ivy League power, says the changes are a "win-win" for both him and new Quakers coach Ray Priore. Priore is still emerging from Bagnoli's shadow even though he came to Philadelphia five years before Bagnoli kicked off his 23-year head coaching run from 1992 to last season.
Neither program is expected to compete for the Ivy title this season. Penn was selected sixth and Columbia seventh out of eight teams in the league's preseason media poll Tuesday. Two-time defending champion Harvard, which went 10-0 to finish as the only unbeaten team in the FCS last season, was installed as the preseason favorite for the 60th season of Ivy football.
"I told people that change ultimately would be good for both schools," said Bagnoli, who won nine Ivy titles and 148 games at Penn.
"We were under my philosophical process for the last 23 years. I think Ray will bring in his own dynamics. He's obviously a bright guy, he's a very accomplished guy in his own right. I think he's made some really good (assistant coaching) hires and he's really had a chance to kind of rebrand Penn a little bit in his image."
Priore succeeding Bagnoli was supposed to happen - it was announced five months before last season - but nobody foresaw Bagnoli stepping out of coaching retirement after three months to accept the reins at another league school, especially one which lost its final 21 games under fired coach Pete Mangurian.
Bagnoli, who moved into an administrative position at Penn after last season, initially worried about the reaction within the Quakers' family, but he's been pleasantly surprised by it.
"The typical line is, 'We wish you win all of them except for one,' which is how they should answer. But it's been really positive," he said.
"I still have a couple Freudian slips to be honest with you. That thing was ingrained for 23 years, so I still have to remind myself I have to say 'Columbia' now.
"Hopefully, people are re-energized just like we are. And I think they have expectations for us to at some point be successful here. The school is too good, the city is too good, the facilities are too good for us not to be able to succeed on a long-term basis. I think the million dollar question is, how long is that gonna take?"
History (three winning seasons in the last 50) suggests it will take considerable time even though this year's Columbia squad returns All-Ivy defensive tackle Niko Padilla and brings in touted transfer quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg from the University of Florida.
If Penn, which dipped to 2-8 last season, takes on the image of Priore, it will be with a determined, blue-collar approach. Over the last 16 seasons, he was the Quakers defensive coordinator and secondaries coach under Bagnoli. He hasn't been a head coach previously.
"I'm following a legend, someone who won so many games it's amazing," Priore said. "It's sort of like a rock band - we've been together for so long that sometimes having a new sax player, a new guitar player helps out the things. Bringing in different entities, and that would be in the case of our offensive coordinator, John Reagan, and Bob Benson on the defensive side. … I think the new entities have sparked new enthusiasm."
Priore enters his 29th year on the Penn sideline, and he coached on the Quakers' 1988 Ivy championship squad, giving him one more title on his resume than Bagnoli. Injuries plagued the team last season, so it utilized many players, building depth for this season, with the strengths including emerging quarterback Alex Torgersen and All-Ivy selections in tight end Ryan O'Malley and defensive end Tyler Drake.
"If we can win," he said, "we can get people to believe. "
Both programs have circled Oct. 17 on their calendars, when Columbia will host Penn. The Quakers' 18 straight victories in the series represent the longest active win streak for one FCS school against another.
Moving to the top of the Ivy's preseason poll, Harvard received 11 of the 20 first-place votes. The Crimson expect to have another strong offense behind quarterback Scott Hosch (likely), running back Paul Stanton Jr. and wide receiver Andrew Fischer.
Like the offense, coach Tim Murphy's squad returns seven starters on defense, led by senior linebackers Jacob Lindsey and Eric Medes, and senior safety Sean Ahern.
Dartmouth, the runner-up last season and picked second again, has the most all-time Ivy titles with 17 - one more than Harvard. The Big Green will try to hold off the Crimson in that column by capturing what would be their first league title since 1996. Quarterback Dalyn Williams, who was the runner-up for the league's 2014 offensive player of the year award, returns to lead the way.
IVY LEAGUE PRESEASON POLL=
1. Harvard (11 first-place votes), 130 points
2. Dartmouth (4), 116
3. Yale (1), 98
4. Princeton, 82
5. Brown (1), 80
6. Penn, 51
7. Columbia, 29
8. Cornell, 26
FIVE KEY LEAGUE GAMES
Brown at Harvard (Sept. 26) - Defending champ Harvard appears vulnerable this year, but there are few programs in college football as consistently good as the Crimson.
Penn at Columbia (Oct. 17) - For Coach Bagnoli, the navy blue of Penn has been lightened to Columbia's powder blue.
Yale at Dartmouth (Oct. 10) - Yale's Morgan Roberts vs. Dartmouth's Dalyn Williams is a QB matchup not to miss.
Dartmouth at Harvard (Oct. 31) - The anticipated game of the year within the league.
Harvard at Yale (Nov. 21) - "The Game" is bigger than any FCS playoff matchup that Harvard hasn't been playing.