Remembering Tough Seasons with Penn Football

By Frank Caccuro, C’93
1992 Penn Football team photo

The 1992 Penn Football team photo (pictured in Poor Richard’s Record).

Prior to coming to University of Pennsylvania, Penn Football won the Ivy League Championship seven of the previous eight years.  After our class committed to Penn, Head Coach Ed Zubrow resigned from Penn to take a job fighting drug abuse with the Philadelphia school district.  We entered our Freshman year with a new coach, Gary Steele who was an assistant under Coach Zubrow.  We still had great expectations that we would continue the Ivy League dominance and have several Ivy Championships by the time we graduated.

Unlike other Division 1 schools, Penn had a Freshman Football program which did not start until the first week of school and was an abbreviated football schedule.  While our freshman team had a good year with a 6-2 record, our varsity team did not do as well, finishing 2-8.  In our sophomore and junior years, we didn’t do any better, finishing 3-7 and 2-8.   At the end of our junior season, the Athletic Department decided a change in Coaching staff was necessary and hired Coach Al Bagnoli.   Coach Bagnoli brought a ray of hope to our senior season.  We started our senior season with a record of 4-2 with only one loss in the Ivy League entering the Penn-Princeton game.  With a win against Princeton, we would be tied for first place and in the driver’s seat to get our first Ivy League Championship.    We travelled up to Princeton’s Palmer stadium on a sunny fall day to reclaim the Ivy League Championship for Penn.  We trailed the entire game but entered the 4th quarter down by 6.   We had two great drives in the 4th quarter to take the lead.   On the first drive, we drove all way down to the five-yard line but missed a field goal to cut the lead to 3.
We still had plenty of time. After stopping Princeton on a three-and-out, we got the ball back with 2:10 remaining and led a dramatic drive to the Tigers’ 23. On the last play of the game, we got sacked by Michael Lerch, a 5-foot-7-inch, 160-pound wide receiver who occasionally plays defensive end on passing situations.  We lost 20-14.  It was the toughest loss in my career and I still recall that play vividly.  I mentioned the WR’s name because it is a name I will never forget.  We ended the season, 7-3.
While the 1993 Class did not win a Championship, we are proud that we started a 25-game win streak, a Division I-AA record.  Our younger teammates went on to win the next two Ivy League Championships, finishing 19-1!
Twenty-five years later, I still think about the Princeton loss and what could have been if Coach Bagnoli was hired our freshman year. While I would like to exchange wins with other teams, I would not exchange any of my teammates.  Whenever I see a fellow teammate, it brings a smile to my face.
Hope to see you soon.  Do better than your best!
Penn Football Coach Lake #93tothe25th

Coach Lake

Coach “Lake” Staffieri played college football at the University of Maryland and was a member of the Terps’ 1953 national championship team, playing in four bowl games: Orange Bowls (two), Gator and Sugar. Dan joined the University of Pennsylvania’s staff in 1977 as head freshman coach under Head Coach Harry Gamble. For the next 34-years, he was an assistant football coach and all-around supporter of Penn. Dan was a very recognizable figure on campus.  He was usually dressed in red and blue plaid pants, a red blazer, and a jeff cap. During football season, he could be seen and heard on Fridays before home games driving the Penn helmet cart around campus and using his megaphone to raise school spirit. During game day, he would have a piece of tape on his forehead with different messages.

Dan had numerous phrases that we would chant like

“Do better than your best!”
“Setbacks pave the way for comebacks”
“I! V! Y! CHAMPS!!”
Coach Lake passed away in 2010 at the age of 85 from cancer of the bladder.

Penn Class of 1993 25th Reunion Countdown

The weekend of January 19 – 20, marked 16 weeks until the 25th Reunion of the Penn Class of 1993 (May 11 – 14, 2018)! Meet us at the Button!

Register NOW to attend our 25th Reunion!

Join us we count down the weeks to our reunion #93tothe25th:

  • Do you have old photos or mementos from our time at Penn? Photos of Spring Fling? Football at Franklin Field? Classes at DRL? We are taking a trip down memory lane and would love for you to share your memories with our class in a future post. Please email us!
  • Follow us on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram.
  • Classmates are invited to join our Facebook and LinkedIn groups.
  • Donate to The Penn Fund in honor of our reunion! We want to break the 25th reunion participation giving record and every gift matters!

Book Your Hotel Room for Alumni Weekend NOW!

The Marriott Downtown (where we had a Penn 1993 and a Penn Alumni room block) is sold out for Alumni Weekend. There are alternative hotels nearby. We recommend booking ASAP! Please see our class website for additional details.

Penn Class of 1993 25th Reunion #93tothe25th




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