Looking at Penn sports throughout history, there have been numerous fantastic coaches. From those who had short tenures to decades-long reigns, Penn has been privileged to have strong leaders at the helm of its teams. Although judging coaching success is subjective and involves numerous factors, here is a ranking of the top five coaches in Penn history.
5. George Munger
George Munger grew up as a star football player. A Philadelphia native, he attended Penn and played halfback from 1930 to 1932. After graduating in 1933, he started coaching football at Episcopal Academy, his high school alma mater. Three years later, Munger was hired at Penn as a freshman football coach. His two-year stint in this role translated to his hiring as the head coach for the program.
During his sixteen-year reign, Munger held an 82-42-10 record. Although the majority of his career was before the formal creation of the Ivy League, his Quaker teams won or tied nine unofficial Ivy titles. In addition to his incredible winning success, Munger is credited as being a coach in one of Penn’s best football eras. His teams regularly sold-out Franklin Field and Penn had the highest average attendance in the country.
Munger was one of the most successful coaches in, arguably, the most electrifying era of Penn football and surely is in the top ranks of all-time Penn coaches.
4. Betty J. Costanza
Betty Costanza is the mother of women’s cross country and track and field at Penn. Starting her coaching job in 1976, she facilitated an explosive growth and expansion of both programs. Her commitment is illustrated in her incredibly long tenure, as Costanza was the only head coach of the programs from 1976 until her retirement in 2002.
Although she basically built a program from the ground up, Costanza enjoyed enormous success. In 26 years, her teams won 11 Ivy League championships, 10 Big Five championships, and seven heptagonal championships. In addition to guiding many athletes to individual heptagonal championships, she also coached the program’s first Olympian, Joan PhengLaOr. Overall, Costanza deserves incredible recognition and surely deserves to be named as one of Penn’s best all-time coaches.
3. Al Bagnoli
Al Bagnoli is undoubtedly one of the top coaches in Penn history. A Central Connecticut State alum, he has been a football coach for all of his professional career. After working as a graduate assistant at the University of Albany, he joined the full-time staff as a defensive coordinator. He was then hired by Union College in 1978, becoming head coach in 1982 at the age of 29.
His strong record at Union put Bagnoli on Penn’s radar. In 1992, he joined Penn as head coach, where he started arguably the most successful reign of any Ivy League football coach. Bagnoli’s coaching created an era of Penn dominance, illustrated by his nine outright Ivy League championships.
Bagnoli was a coach that turned Penn back into a dominant football force.
2. Karin Corbett
Karin Corbett has been a shining star at Penn. Before 2000, Penn women's lacrosse was struggling. With the program winning only one game the year before she came in, Corbett hit the ground running. In a complete turn-around, she rebuilt the program into a national powerhouse. Her 233 wins since her start is evidence of this transformation.
Corbett has propelled the Red and Blue to become perennial Ivy-League and national contenders. In her 21 seasons at the helm, she has won eleven Ivy League championships. In addition, she has guided her teams to thirteen consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament.
Overall, Corbett is truly a Penn icon and one of the most gifted coaches in collegiate sports.
1. Fran Dunphy
Fran Dunphy tops this list as the most successful and prolific coach in Penn history. Also a Philadelphia native, he was an excellent basketball player, primarily as a guard at La Salle University. Although he didn’t receive much playing time in his first two seasons, he averaged 18.7 points per game in his third season on a nearly undefeated Explorer team.
After graduating, Dunphy immediately looked to coaching, first at the United States Military Academy. After bouncing around between various jobs both at the preparatory and collegiate levels, he was hired at La Salle as an assistant. In 1988, Dunphy left La Salle to take an assistant coaching role at Penn, which ultimately led to him being named head coach the following year.
At Penn, Dunphy recorded 310 wins, the most by any Penn coach. In his seventeen seasons leading the Red and Blue, he won ten Ivy League championships. He also led numerous ranked teams, notably his No. 21 ranked 1994-95 squad, who heartbreakingly lost in overtime to Alabama in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Dunphy will always be revered as someone who immortalized Penn’s basketball program.
Penn has had a number of great coaches throughout its rich history. Although this list is not comprehensive, it is a good look at some of the figures who forged Penn’s rich athletic history.
DUSTIN GHANNADI is a Wharton junior from Los Angeles and is a sports reporter The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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