E veryone reading this next sentence will hate me but I will say it anyway: When Al Bagnoli announced in April that he would retire after the 2014 season, I immediately thought about Derek Jeter.
This isn’t just because I grew up a diehard New York Yankees fan or because I also happen to cover Penn football.
Instead it is because both men announced that they would retire before their respective seasons yet neither wanted any part of the spotlight that comes with doing so.
It is no secret that Bagnoli has never wanted things to be about himself. When any reporter asks questions involving him personally, he will quickly brush them aside and say that he wants the focus to be on his players, not himself.
And Jeter was the same way, desiring the media to stop pestering him about how he felt about going through his final season and give attention to the 2014 Yankees as a whole.
But both the Yankees and Quakers couldn’t reach their goals of making the playoffs and an Ivy title, respectively, falling well short in Penn’s case.
So it is time for Bagnoli to embrace his “farewell tour” in the same way that Jeter did.
By the end of the season, when it was clear that the Yankees weren’t going to make the postseason, Jeter graciously accepted the accolades and gifts from opposing fans and teams. He acknowledged the fans even though he said it was like watching his own funeral.
And I’m sure it has been weird for Bagnoli, too.
It’s not like he is going very far away. The long-time coach will likely end up in some sort of administrative position and will still be involved in the program in a different — and ultimately smaller — role.
But that doesn’t mean he can’t embrace the support he has gotten from the outside. Each road game in the Ancient Eight has also featured some sort of moment where the opposing school, be it Dartmouth, Yale or Princeton, thanked Bagnoli for what he has done in the Ancient Eight. Yale even gave the Connecticut native a gift.
Yet Bagnoli has remained stubborn as always and refuses to be a part of any ceremony or recognition.
And to a certain extent, rightfully so. He has always said that it was about his players, not him, and that is true to a large extent.
But now, it isn’t about the players. The games have become relatively meaningless outside of playing for pride, and the losses are piling up to an embarrassing extent. Just like Jeter, who for the first time in his career played a game at Yankee Stadium with the Yankees out of playoff contention, Bagnoli has to deal with a team that can’t contend with the top dogs in the Ivies.
So against Harvard on Saturday, when Bagnoli steps foot onto Franklin Field for the final time as head coach, he needs to embrace it. The fans that show up need to embrace him.
And when Penn chooses to recognize its long-time head coach during pregame, halftime or whenever they decide to do so, it will be time for Bagnoli to finally acknowledge that for once, it can be about him.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.