L ike any other team, Penn football will hold a ceremony before its final home game of the 2014 season to honor its senior class, a group comprised of key contributors from the Quakers’ most recent Ivy title team in 2012.
And like any other Senior Day, Saturday is going to be an emotional day for everyone involved. Veterans including wide receiver Conner Scott , linebacker Dan Davis and defensive backs Evan Jackson and Dan Wilk will be honored for their contributions to the Red and Blue over the past several years.
Throughout the duration of this season, coach Al Bagnoli — who you may have heard will retire following Penn’s final game of the year against Cornell next weekend — has placed an emphasis on his players, particularly his seniors. Although this will also be his last campaign on the Quakers’ sideline, Bagnoli made it perfectly clear before the year started that he never wanted his impending retirement to overshadow what his players did on the field.
All season long, the coach at the helm of Penn football since the Bush Sr. administration has said and done the right things. He has always been deferent, humble and positive, even as the Red and Blue have struggled mightily for the second consecutive season.
For Bagnoli, excluding the win total, 2014 has been the same as each of the other 22 years he spent in University City. And it’s impossible not to respect the hell out of someone who realizes that it is not — and has never been — all about him.
So yes, Bagnoli was right all along. For the first eight weeks of this season, the focus rightfully should have been on his players, and it was. Retirement tours can become obnoxious — you’re lying if you say you didn’t once get fed up hearing about Derek Jeter’s final series in Minneapolis, Toronto or Milwaukee.
But Athletic Director Grace Calhoun and her counterparts in Penn Athletics need to realize one undeniable truth: This is the last time most anyone on this campus will have the opportunity to honor Bagnoli. And it’s about damn time someone does it.
In three home games thus far this season, Penn has put forth no effort to honor Bagnoli in any fashion. While that may have been in line with the coach’s wishes, there was absolutely no reason not to generate some sort of presentation or ceremony for Bagnoli against Brown during Homecoming when a number of former players were on campus.
Other conference opponents have taken advantage of the chance to acknowledge not only the coach’s accomplishments at Penn but his contributions to the Ivy League at large.
Penn Athletics has already acknowledged that “the University and Athletic Department will honor the school’s all-time winningest football coach” on Saturday in addition to his players.
And if there is one way to please Bagnoli while also honoring him, the answer is simple: keep in line with what he has repeatedly said throughout the season.
Honor the seniors before the game begins. Allow the Quakers to play Harvard while Bagnoli — as he has done for 23 years — does his job.
Once the game is over, there should be no restrictions. Let Bagnoli sing the alma mater with his players before they carry him off the field on his shoulders. Notify students that, despite the fact that the Red and Blue are 1-7, this is a game worth attending.
More importantly, the University needs to show Al Bagnoli what we have all known for decades: That he truly is one-of-a-kind and, despite his objections, that he is the person on campus most deserving of an illustrious send off.
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