New coach Ray Priore bringing new energy to Penn football


New coach Ray Priore bringing new energy to Penn football

The Penn football players had only been in preseason camp for less than a week when their new head coach called in a favor.

After eating the same cafeteria food every day, they were greeted to a pleasant surprise when Ray Priore had one of Penn’s dining halls essentially turned into a private restaurant for the football team.

Steak and shrimp was on the menu.

“We killed that,” sophomore wide receiver Justin Watson said. “I think I gained three pounds just from that.”

Then, more importantly, the receiver added: “Little things like that really show he’s on our side and makes us want to play for a guy like that.”

Such was the general sentiment during Penn football’s media day Tuesday from Penn Park -- Priore’s first as head coach.

Replacing a legend like Al Bagnoli, who led the Quakers to nine outright Ivy League championships in 23 years, was never going to be easy for Priore. Making things even more difficult is the fact that he now has to coach against that legend every year as Bagnoli took the head coaching job at Columbia after retiring from Penn and passing the torch to Priore, his longtime defensive coordinator.

But through spring practices and now during the start of preseason camp, Priore has not only been doing all the “little things” to make the transition smoother but also bringing a new level of energy not always seen during Bagnoli’s reign.

“There’s a lot more energy,” quarterback Alek Torgersen said. “Last year we were pretty flat when we came to camp. … As a team, we’ve definitely gotten a lot better and that starts with the energy we bring to practice and the attitude we bring to practice. I think that’s the biggest change from last year.”

Torgersen, who ranked third in the nation in completions and amassed the third highest passing yards total in school history last season, is one of the big reasons why the Quakers can turn it around after an ugly 2-8 campaign last year.

And he wasn’t the only player Monday to use the word “energy” when asked to describe what Priore has done to help usher such a daunting turnaround for a Quakers team that was uncharacteristically picked to finish sixth in the preseason Ivy poll.

"You know what Coach Priore is about," said senior defensive end Tyler Drake, a captain and preseason All-American. "You know his style. High energy -- I mean, that would be the best way to describe him. On the field, he’s really making sure we’re on our game and that everything’s perfect.

"There wasn’t even a transition, really. We hit the ground running."

That said, there have been some challenges for Priore as he shifts his role from a coordinator to head coach. Now, he’s trying to do his best to oversee the work that his new coaches are doing, including offensive coordinator John Reagan and defensive coordinator Bob Benson, and not always jump in like he has in the past.

He also said that managing his time and being as efficient as possible are some of the things he’s been focusing on leading into Penn’s first game against Lehigh on Sept. 19.

“I learned a great lesson from the women’s basketball coach, Mike McLaughlin,” Priore told reporters Tuesday. “He said that when you want to step in, take two steps back. And that’s what I’ve been doing since the spring time. I have all the faith [in my coordinators]. … You’ve got to let your coaches coach.”

But that doesn’t mean the head coach isn’t keeping the communication lines open with his coaches and his players.

“Coach Priore is really personable” said sophomore running back Tre Solomon, who’s recovering from a season-ending knee injury he suffered last year. “He knows us all by name, he knows what we’re all like. He’s a funny dude too, walking around, punking us sometimes.”

The players have seemed to respond well to that gregarious style mixed with moments of high intensity.

And they’re ready to try to erase the bad memories during Bagnoli’s final two years in charge and get back to the winning ways that defined most of the former coach’s tenure -- with a new man in charge.

“I believe that maybe our styles are different than in the past but I think our kids came in really, really hungry,” Priore said. “We have a proud tradition. They walk up to the office every single day and see the championship pictures on the walk up the office -- and their goal is to get on that wall.”

UCLA reportedly offered Jay Wright ridiculous amount he turned down

USA Today Images

UCLA reportedly offered Jay Wright ridiculous amount he turned down

Because of his success at Villanova, Jay Wright is always a hot name when a high-profile coaching job becomes available. But Wright really does seem happy at Villanova. 

It looks like Wright subscribes to the idea that money can’t buy happiness. 

The Los Angeles Times published a story today about UCLA’s long and winding search for a new head coach. Before they eventually landed on Mick Cronin, they went after some big names in the coaching world, including John Calipari and Wright. 

While Calipari showed some real interest in the gig, it doesn’t seem like Wright gave it a second thought, not even after UCLA offered to double his salary, according to the LA Times

Read by the LA Times, here’s part of what UCLA’s senior associate AD Josh Rebholz said in a text message to donors after the school failed to hire Calipari: 

We would have loved for Jay Wright to walk out on the floor, but even when we offered to double his salary, he still wasn’t coming. Nothing we can do about that. But I am proud of our effort. We didn’t assume anything, took our shots and I believe will end up with a solid coach who will embrace UCLA and build a program we all can be proud of and root for.

If that’s true, that UCLA offered to double his salary, Wright turned down a ton of money. According to USA Today, Wright makes $3,878,768 per season, so doubling that would give him an annual salary of over $7.75 million. That would be the second-highest salary in college basketball behind Calipari and ahead of Mike Krzyzewski. 

It seems like Wright really does love it here. 

2019 NCAA March Madness printable bracket

2019 NCAA March Madness printable bracket

Sports fans, it’s the best time of the year.

Even if you don’t have a team in the dance, you’re probably filling out a bracket and will be just as interested in all the games, until your bracket has been busted.

Speaking of a bracket, if you’re looking for something clean to print out, click here. If you're looking for analysis, our friends at NBC Sports have you covered.

Good luck this year and be sure to be gracious in both victory and defeat in your office pool.