Before his final game, University at Albany football coach Bob Ford got a gift box of cigars and a case from the parents of Stony Brook head coach Chuck Priore, one of Ford’s many former players.
No doubt, Ford will get good use out of them in retirement because he loves a good stogie.
However, Stony Brook made sure they wouldn’t be victory cigars.
The Seawolves scored touchdowns on their first three possessions and ended UAlbany’s season, and Ford’s distinguished career, with a 24-3 loss before 4,512 fans at La Valle Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
“Boom! That’s it, folks,” Ford said in the postgame news conference. “In more ways than one, that’s it.”
Ford avoided dwelling on the finality of the game until a group of his former players in attendance came on the field to say goodbye and pose for photographs with their mentor.
“The first time I’ve really cried was after the ballgame was over,” Ford said. “It wasn’t so much the end of the ballgame, but there were so many of our ex-football players who came down on the field.”
They included players from his first club team at UAlbany in 1970.
Ford, 76, wryly noted that many of them are already retired. “I don’t know how the hell they can do that at so young an age,” Ford said.
Ford finishes with an overall record of 265-190-1, with 256 victories at UAlbany and the other nine at St. Lawrence, his first head-coaching stop. He’s fourth all-time in victories among Football Championship Subdivision coaches.
Ford lost his winning touch with this year’s team, which finished 1-11 overall and 0-8 in league play in its first season in the Colonial Athletic Association. The Great Danes struggled to compete with 54 scholarship players, including an inexperienced class of 19 that came in this season, against teams that had the full complement of 63.
Still, the Great Danes had hoped to send out Ford on a winning note against Stony Brook.
“Nothing I wanted more than to give Coach Ford a win going out the door, along with the seniors,” said junior running back Omar Osbourne, who finished the year with 1,206 rushing yards. “To not be able to get that, that really hurt.”
It wasn’t to be as UAlbany was plagued by sloppy tackling and bad penalties. Stony Brook went 78, 91 and 91 yards on their first three drives to build a 21-0 lead with 14:32 left in the first half.
After that, UAlbany managed only Tom O’Riordan’s 31-yard field goal with 10:27 left in the third quarter. Stony Brook (5-6, 3-5) outgained UAlbany 456-239 and held a 36:30 to 23:30 edge in time of possession.
“I was disappointed in where we were tackling,” Ford said. “I thought the second half we started to play a little bit better on defense. It’s not hard to hold on to a squad and a staff when you’re winning. When you’re losing, it’s more of a challenge. I was proud of them. They came back every Tuesday (after losses) and continued to work hard.”
Priore, who graduated from UAlbany in 1983 and started his coaching career under Ford, shared a hug with Ford after the game.”It’s certainly bittersweet for me on a personal level with Coach Ford,” Priore said. “He’s had such an influence on my career. It’s an honor to coach the last game against him.”
Before the game, Priore took Ford into his office, where Ray and Camille Priore presented him with the cigars and a pair of Stony Brook administrators gave him gift certificates for free golf and dinner.
Stony Brook also ran a congratulatory video on its scoreboard for Ford prior to the game.
“Sometimes, in the heat of battle, you forget that almost everybody who goes into these fields are delightful people,” Ford said.
Ford said he plans to continue working at UAlbany in a fundraising role. He leaves behind players like senior wide receiver Kevin Chillis, who was asked what he learned from Ford.
“Just always stay positive,” Chillis said. “Always help others.”
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