When Stony Brook and Albany met two years ago in an FCS first-round playoff game, it was a thrill ride to the final minute, when the Seawolves won it with an interception in the end zone. The stakes won't be as high Saturday afternoon at LaValle Stadium as both come to the end of disappointing seasons, but it will be an especially emotion-filled meeting between SUNY rivals.
It's the final game in the career of Albany coach Bob Ford, and the fact that Stony Brook coach Chuck Priore was a standout running back for the Great Danes and spent three years as an assistant under Ford adds to the sentiment. Ford, 76, is Albany's only coach since it revived football at the club level in 1970 and made it a varsity sport in 1973.
"I know a lot of people he's put in this profession would feel the same as I do: that it's a great honor to coach a game on a Saturday afternoon when you're coaching against a legend that prepared you and put you in place," said Priore, one of more than 100 former Ford assistants in the coaching ranks. "There's a mixed emotion to it, but I'm honored to represent all the other Albany coaches. I think it is cool that he gets a chance to coach against somebody that played for him and coached for him."
In 41 seasons as varsity coach, Ford has a 256-169 career record, but this 1-10 season is his worst, and only his 10th losing season. The Great Danes are 0-7 in their first season of Colonial Athletic Association play. Stony Brook (4-6, 2-5) also struggled through an injury-riddled season before scoring a 41-38 upset win last week at James Madison.
That win and the return of previously injured center Mike Lisi and backup wide receivers Devante Wheeler and Jahrie Level should buoy SBU's spirits. But the Great Danes purchased 1,000 tickets and will have a loud contingent of students and alumni on hand for Ford's finale.
"I've got former teammates coming who I would never expect to come see Albany play Stony Brook," Priore said. "They may have the home-field advantage when it comes to the crowd. I'm expecting an Albany team that's going to be representative of who he is, which is toughness, organized and never quit. That's what I try to represent in our program and that's what I expect to see."
Ford's first varsity win was a 69-6 rout of Stony Brook in 1973, but Priore is 2-1 against his mentor. "I wouldn't be in this profession if it wasn't for him," Priore said. "It started off as a player. In the three years I worked under him, I learned how to organize and plan."