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Ray Priore has been on the sideline for Penn football for 28 years. He's seen his brother become a head coach. He's seen his predecessor move on to Columbia. Now, it's Priore's turn to take the helm at Franklin Field.

Credit: Ilana Wurman , Ilana Wurman, Ilana Wurman

"For anything to be worth anything, it takes time."

It's a muggy midweek afternoon on the practice field, and Penn football is 10 days away from its season opener. With the sun mercilessly refusing to recede behind a series of clouds, the Quakers break one of their final practices of the preseason, with dozens of players doing everything possible to find a shower and shade to escape the sweat-inducing heat.

A handful of players stay behind, catching passes shot out of a machine quicker than one would expect any quarterback to be able to throw. Others help drag equipment back to where it belongs. Two linemen hit the sled.

And, behind all of the action, Penn's newest head coach gives an interview.

With less than two weeks separating the Red and Blue from their first game, one might expect there to be more to do than this. One might expect time to come at a premium for a coach at one of college football's winningest programs.

But Ray Priore has been waiting 28 years for this season. He's got nothing but time.

The Man

For Priore, it all started at Albany. After playing linebacker and defensive back under Great Danes legend Bob Ford until he graduated in 1985, Priore began a coaching journey now entering its fourth decade.

Immediately following graduation, the Long Beach, N.Y., native became Ford's defensive backs coach, serving at his alma mater for two seasons. In 1987, he made the transition to Penn, taking over as the team's assistant linebackers coach and kick-starting a tenure with the Quakers that has featured almost too many titles to remember.

Outside linebackers coach. Defensive ends coach. Special teams coordinator. Recruiting coordinator. Defensive coordinator. Associate head coach. Head coach-in-waiting.

Throughout nearly 30 years with the Red and Blue, Priore has unquestionably filled an incredible amount of roles for the team. But even as the responsibilities of his job changed, the man never did.

"He's always had a great work ethic," said defensive coordinator Bob Benson, the man now occupying Priore's old office. "He's extremely organized. He cares and he's got a great relationship with the people around him. When you can do all of those things, they add up to being ready to become a head coach."

And on April 23, 2014, Penn Athletics announced that then-head coach Al Bagnoli would retire following the 2014 season, with Priore slated to succeed him. The one title that seemed all too elusive finally became reality for the longtime defensive guru: Head coach.

Better late than never.

The Brother

15 years before Priore took over the program, another former Penn assistant with the same last name received his first head coaching opportunity, albeit elsewhere. Chuck Priore — the defensive coordinator's elder brother by three years — left the Red and Blue after eight seasons as the team's offensive boss, a unique stretch that witnessed the duo combine for three Ivy titles under Bagnoli.

Chuck's hiring at Trinity marked the end of a rare period in which both brothers wielded significant influence in molding a program that finished 52-27 with two undefeated seasons between 1992 and 1999. For the brothers, working together afforded a once-in-a-lifetime experience and made life easier for the entire Priore clan.

"It was neat for our families, for our parents being able to go to one game for both of us on a Saturday afternoon," said Chuck, now the head coach at Stony Brook. "Certainly, you don't get a chance to normally do that sort of stuff — not only work in the same profession but work together. It was fun, and you know that you're always going to have someone there that's going to have your back."

After Ray arrived at Penn in 1987, the younger Priore was one of the only holdover coaches from Gary Steele's staff when Bagnoli took over in 1992. It just so happened that Bagnoli's longtime offensive coordinator — both at Union and then at Penn — was a guy who knew Ray better than almost anyone.

"My first memory of that was that I had to make sure that I didn't put Chuck in direct charge of Ray," Bagnoli said. "So thank God Ray was a defensive coach and Chuck was an offensive guy, because that was my first introduction to having the brothers together."

With so much in common between the two men beyond their last name, it's easy to wonder how Chuck's opportunity to head a program developed so much sooner than Ray's. According to the elder Priore, it all came down to one factor: Ray couldn't quit Penn.

"I think he made a decision that he really enjoyed Penn," Chuck said. "He was at Penn before I got there, and I think he really loved the school, the people there and everything around him. I was not as married to it, so I took a chance when I left and took an opportunity.

"I'm sure if he wanted to, he could have left and become a head coach a lot sooner, but I know he felt comfortable. ... And he knew that it was the right place for him."

15 years since their coaching careers diverged onto different paths, the brothers remain devotedly in contact. In fact, calls between the two have helped make Ray's transition to head coach this offseason go smoothly.

"I speak to my brother every morning at 5:45 a.m.. I'm in the car driving in, he's on the elliptical working out," Ray said at the team's Media Day in August. "We troubleshoot things, and for a first-time head coach, he's delivered some great advice and made me feel more poised about how I can foresee things coming down the line to handle the job."

If there's any bitterness that his older brother beat him to the head coaching ranks, it's impossible to tell. Because for Ray, waiting has always been commonplace.

The Predecessor

It's possible that Priore would have taken over at Penn years earlier if the man he replaced hadn't been so damn good.

But when your predecessor is a nine-time Ivy champion, you understand that you may have to wait awhile for your opportunity. After all, as he pointed out at the end of the Quakers' sweltering midweek practice, anything that is worth anything takes time.

"He's had even more tenure at Penn than I had," said Bagnoli, who came out of retirement and was hired as the boss at Columbia in February. "He's the Penn historian, he's got great ties that goes back to all of the Penn alumni, and I think it's a really good fit for Penn at this point to have him in that capacity."

Though Bagnoli never initially planned to end up at Columbia, he did work with former Athletic Director Steve Bilsky to guarantee stability for the Red and Blue after the former's retirement. That consistency came in the form of someone already on staff, a man who had been with the program since the Reagan administration, even before Bagnoli turned it into a powerhouse.

"It's something that I thought about for awhile and probably mentioned in passing to Steve," Bagnoli said. "Once Steve announced his own retirement [in November 2013], I felt like it might have been the correct opportunity for me to step away, so we began analyzing internal candidates to replace me. And we found that we had someone there who would be a really good fit, and I think everyone involved with that decision was very comfortable with having someone of Ray's caliber there."

Throughout 2014, with his longtime assistant waiting in the wings to take over Penn at season's end, Bagnoli allowed Priore to take on greater responsibility in recruitment. And since his final game in November and his departure for the Big Apple in February, Bagnoli has continually pledged more than just professional advice to his successor.

"He knows I'm here, he knows I'm available, and that's an understood thing," Bagnoli said. "We left it at that. I had to be careful, I didn't want to cast a shadow over him. But he knows that if he needs something, I'm more than happy to help.

"It's more than just a professional relationship, it's also a friendship that has built up over time."

The Season

As the Quakers approach their season opener, expectations outside of the program are less than favorable. The Ivy League preseason media poll has Penn pegged to finish sixth, ahead of only Cornell and Bagnoli's Lions, two squads that combined for one win in 2014.

But don't tell Priore people don't expect anything from the Red and Blue this season. Be it because of the injection of new blood into the coaching staff or the typical preseason hype found in every camp across the country, there's an undeniable excitement surrounding the team.

Yet even if the man now in charge on Penn's sidelines doesn't bring an Ivy title back to Philadelphia in 2015 — it would be the first time a coach did that in his first season with the program — there's no reason to believe he'll get discouraged. After waiting 28 years for this gig, the difficult path to league championships will seem like a cakewalk.

Because, be it waiting for a head coaching opportunity or crafting a contender, anything worth anything takes time.

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