Friday, October 2, 2015

Welcome Back, Al

TigerBlog learned an interesting fact yesterday.

He currently ranks 19th among Department of Athletics employees in tenure. This doesn't count the time he worked at the newspaper and was here all the time. Just the time since he was actually hired by Princeton.

Who's No. 1? It's currently a tie between men's track and field coach Fred Samara and women's track and field coach Peter Farrell, both of whom started on Sept. 1, 1977. That's a long time ago.

It's really remarkable, one of the most remarkable stories in Princeton athletic history, actually. Peter and Fred, working side-by-side for nearly 40 years, coaching the same sport, having all kinds of success. With the size of the track and field rosters and their longevity, they've both coached more Princeton athletes than any other coach ever, TB assumes.

And TB has written this before. They're different people with different personalities (Fred's a bit more serious with a dryer sense of humor; Peter's sense of humor is a bit more in your face), but they have this incredible bond from having started on the same day and from spending so much time together.

So they're No. 1 and 1A.

TigerBlog wonders if he'll ever be No. 1 on that list. Will there come a day when he's worked here more than anyone else?

If you worked here about 10 years or so ago, then you know who was referred to as "the New Guy." That would be Jon Kurian of the business office, who earned that nickname in his earliest days as the "350-hour pain in the butt."

Kurian came here needing 350 hours of an internship to finish his master's degree (or GED or whatever) and just sort of stayed around for more than a decade.

Now? The New Guy ranks 40th in longevity. That means more than 100 people are behind him. Ah, time marches on.

That became apparent to TigerBlog yesterday, when he was asked to write a story for the Colgate football game program on the 20th anniversary of the 1995 Ivy League football championship. He was able to quickly churn out nearly 1,200 words on the subject, all from memory, and yet it has been 20 years.

TigerBlog was the football contact in 1995, and in fact he'll put his 1995-96 academic year up there with any that any Ivy League athletic communications person has ever had. Who can beat this: 1) an outright Ivy football title, 2) the playoff win over Penn and NCAA win over UCLA in men's basketball and 3) an overtime win over Virginia in the NCAA men's lacrosse championship game.

That's a pretty good 10 months.

Ah, but enough nostalgia.

Fast-forwarding to the present, it's the Ivy League football opener for Princeton tonight as the Columbia Lions comes to Powers Field at Princeton Stadium. Kick-off is at 7, and the game will be televised on NBC Sports Network.

The big story in Ivy League football this off-season, or possibly any off-season ever, was the Al Bagnoli story. You know, the one where he went from coaching Penn, to retiring, to coaching Columbia.

Bagnoli was actually honored here at Princeton a year ago, when he brought Penn here for the final time.

In fact, it made TigerBlog wonder when the last time someone coached on Powers Field in consecutive years, so he looked it up. The answer is Andy Coen of Lehigh, who coached here in 2007 and 2008. Colgate's Dick Biddle did it too, in 2002 and 2003.

As for the game itself, Princeton is 2-0, and Columbia is 0-2. This is the first league game for both, and it is a huge one for both.

Princeton has rolled up 92 points in two games (40-7 over Lafayette, 52-26 over Lehigh) and is thinking about making a big run into November. Columbia has lost 23 straight games, but the Lions were very competitive in Weeks 1 and 2 (losses to Fordham and Georgetown).

And there is no denying the optimism that Bagnoli has brought to Columbia in his first season there. He is heading into a place where he has had success in his career and in his first Ivy game with his new school on top of that. Certainly motivation will be no issue.

Princeton hosts Colgate next Saturday. A loss in the league opener would sting, especially with back-to-back road trips after that, to Brown and Harvard.

As for Bagnoli, it'll be odd for TigerBlog to see him in Columbia colors, on the Columbia sideline. That will go away after kickoff for everyone though.

It's game night. The Ivy opener.

Oh, and the last time an Ivy League coach was here two years in a row? How about Pete Mangurian, when Cornell played here in 1998 and 1999.

And it was Mangurian who was Columbia's coach last year before Bagnoli.

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