Each Thursday, Joe Moglia devotes 20 minutes out of the Coastal Carolina football team meeting to talk to his players about something other than football. Recently, he was struck by a story in the local newspaper about a suicide.
He stood in front of nearly 100 young men and asked if they understood what suicide meant. Did they understand why someone might take their own life? Did they understand the concept of
"Our heart and soul's here to make sure we have a great football program, that we do what we need to do to be successful and compete at the national level," Moglia said. "Every coach in the country says, it's more than that. It's always about preparing kids for life. I think we so get into that in a real way that we'll make a difference in our kids and hopefully, I think they're very much starting to appreciate that."
When Old Dominion (10-1) lines up for its FCS playoff opener 2 p.m. Saturday against Coastal Carolina (8-4) at S.B. Ballard Stadium, it will face a figure, if not a program, unique in college football.
Moglia takes to heart the idea that he is not merely a football coach, but a role model. He can offer advice and guidance in multiple areas, largely because he has lived it.
Moglia made a fortune — several fortunes, actually — in the business world before stepping away to pursue again his dream of becoming a football coach.
Last winter, Coastal Carolina officials fired the only football coach they ever had, Dave Bennett, a man who started the program from scratch a decade ago and took it to the FCS playoffs twice. They took a chance on a 63-year-old who last coached full-time in college almost 30 years ago.
"It didn't provide any more pressure on me," Moglia said. "It got a lot more attention. When it gets a lot more attention, you get a lot more noise.
"One of the things that I think is a strength that I learned in the business world, and I should have learned this better the first time around as a coach," Moglia continued, "you're really, really, really focused on a handful of things that really matter. There may be 80 things to get done, but there's seven of them that really, really make a difference … You can't worry about what the press is saying or what somebody else is saying or what a chatroom board is saying. I don't worry about that anyway."
Local sports fans may remember Moglia for his brief tenure as head coach of the
Moglia stood in a downtown Norfolk restaurant at the introductory press conference in November 2010 and laid out his life story. He fairly begged people to ask questions and presented the case that while hiring a CEO as a football coach may have been out-of-the-box, it wasn't some absurd publicity stunt.
"One of the big reasons why I was successful in business is because of the 16 years of my life I spent as a football coach," Moglia said this week. "I think I am a much better head college coach because of the experience I've had as a pretty senior guy in the business world."
Moglia is one of those force-of-nature individuals for whom solid plans and hard work overcome pedigree and perceived shortcomings. The upper Manhattan, N.Y., native is a dynamic, rapid-fire speaker who often talks in bullet points and for whom punctuation is merely a rumor.
Moglia stepped away from coaching in 1984 when he was a typically underpaid assistant at Dartmouth, in order to better provide for his ex-wife and young children. Despite zero experience in business, he worked and talked his way into a sales position at Merrill Lynch. He was almost instantly successful and eventually became head of global fixed-income sales and then municipal lending.
He left Merrill Lynch in 2001 to become CEO of the online brokerage firm Ameritrade, again with no experience in the field. He arranged a lucrative merger that became TD Ameritrade, and amid the financial crisis of 2008, the firm turned a profit of $800 million.
Moglia was making a reported $21 million per year when he left TD Ameritrade in 2008. His net worth is conservatively estimated at $200 million. He stepped down because the coaching bug never left him and because Bo Pelini offered him an internship at Nebraska. He worked 80-hour weeks for two seasons, absorbing everything he could about present-day college football and holding talks on personal and professional finance on campus.
Moglia did a one-year stint with the UFL's Nighthawks before the league ran aground. He left Omaha and moved to a tony area of Pawley's Island, S.C., where he attempted to land a college head coaching job. His resume and story caught the attention of Coastal Carolina president David DeCenzo, who canned Bennett and replaced him with Moglia.
Coastal athletic director Hunter Yurachek told
Moglia brought in a new staff, installed a new offense, defense and special teams. He talked about changing the culture and philosophy.
The Chanticleers rebounded from a 2-4 start and have won their last six, including last Saturday's playoff opener at Bethune Cookman 24-14. Moglia said that a week five crunch job to Appalachian State prompted a return to fundamentals and that his team improved in all phases over the past two months.
Job one for Moglia's team is illustrated by signs posted all over the football offices and locker room: BAM — which stands for Be A Man.
"We don't have any rules, but we do have one stand," Moglia said. "You stand on your own two feet, accept responsibility for yourself, you'll be a man. When we say that, everybody nods their head. But there's not one phase of your life, period, not one phase — nothing in football, nothing academically, nothing as a son or a brother at home, your behavior on or off campus, that that concept doesn't touch. I think the most difficult thing is being able to put that together, and that's something the staff's got to live up to as well."
That mantra ties in with Moglia's Thursday chats about topics other than football. He talks to the players about current events, selecting careers and personal finance. The latter, he said, is a very popular topic among his staff, as well as his players.
"I explain that the typical family in this country spends more time planning a family vacation than they do managing their own finances," he said. "Somebody's got to take responsibility for this. People make excuses all the time. At least, at your level now, the only thing I'm saying you should be paying attention to right now, is put yourself on a little budget. Do you know how much money you spend? Do you know what you spend it on?"
Moglia said that parents pay more attention to his background than recruits, though he thinks that will change as the program succeeds and more young men become aware of what he can offer.
He donwplayed the idea that his personal fortune has taken pressure off of him, that he can afford to coach a more freewheeling style. He said that he doesn't have to worry about many of the peripheral things that younger coaches do, because he already has provided for his family. That allows him more time to focus on elements of coaching and communication.
"Coming back," he said, "I feel like there's more pressure to make sure that we win and make sure that we get the job done. I didn't do this for the idea that we're going to fail. There's as much pressure on me as there is on any coach in the country, in terms of trying to win, focus on winning, but doing the best you possibly can with your program and with who your kids are."
He doubted that he would have gone back into business directly or back to volunteer coaching had he not landed the Coastal Carolina job. Believing that he could be successful, he would have continued to look for a head coaching position, but not indefinitely.