Time for CCU football fans to put past behind them

Sunday marks the one-year anniversary of Coastal Carolina’s firing of football coach David Bennett.

And while it’s too early to tell whether the bold move to replace Bennett with TD Ameritrade CEO Joe Moglia will pay long-term dividends, the end of the 2012 season certainly gives Chanticleer fans hope.

Rewind your minds one year and remember the surprising news delivered at a hastily called press conference announcing Bennett’s dismissal and the launch of a pointless search to find his replacement. Little did we know CCU President David DeCenzo already had Moglia in his cross hairs, if not his pocket.

His introduction just a few days later also came as a shock (except for those who checked Grand Strand Sports Report the night before). Talk about a tough situation to walk into, Moglia was faced with the prospect of replacing the man who had made CCU the Cinderella start-up story of college football.

The reaction was mixed, some angered by a perceived mistreatment of Bennett, the school’s only coach who was 63-39 over nine seasons, other perplexed over the hiring of a Wall Street multi-millionaire who had not coached college football in 30 years.

The school had its work cut out for it to sell new and existing fans on the move. Moglia also had big shoes to fill in Bennett, who had endeared himself to the community during his decade on the Grand Strand. Let’s just say the situation was far from ideal; Bennett was beloved, Moglia was a stranger.

Not many minds were changed through the first half of the season. Crowds at Brooks Stadium were disappointing, to say the least, and the Chants were 2-4 after losing four straight games. They came back to win their final five games of the season to match Bennett’s regular-season record in 2011.

In reality, the biggest difference between the past two seasons were beyond Coastal’s control. Liberty upset Stony Brook and the Chants won a three-way tiebreaker to earn the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. But the details of the total-points tiebreaker show Coastal’s improvement.

While Bennett’s Chants were blown out by Liberty and Stony Brook by a combined score of 105-27, Moglia’s squad appeared to get stronger as the season progressed. They lost a tough game to Stony Brook 27-21 but blasted Liberty 36-12 to earn the postseason berth.

And that’s when the gradual improvement really started to show. Moglia led Coastal to its first FCS playoff victory 24-14 at Bethune-Cookman, then went toe-to-toe with No. 3-ranked Old Dominion for three quarters before the Monarchs pulled away for a 63-35 win.

Now the big question is whether that steady improvement continues. Yes, Moglia did it with a roster that was recruited by Bennett and how well he and his staff fill the departures with a strong recruiting class will go a long way to determining the success or failure of the Hail Mary hire.

But one can’t help be be impressed with the job Moglia, a finalist for the FCS Coach of the Year, has done in his college coaching debut. His ability to amass a quality staff and squad that carries a ton of momentum into next season is reason for encouragement for Coastal fans.

One year after the shocking coaching change, it’s time for CCU fans to put the past behind them and get behind their school. If not, you might miss another Cinderella story for the Chanticleers.

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One response to “Time for CCU football fans to put past behind them”

  1. Clemsonfan says:

    Terry, your article has one of the better perspectives I have seen in the media. I live in Conway but I am pretty neutral in regards to Coastal athletics. However, I knew who David Bennett was and I saw him around doing things for the community. The big issue, which people who care about Coastal can be forgiven for not putting behind them, was the way their school got rid of their coach. I do not know what happened, but I know what looks like happened. CCU fired a good coach when they had a millionaire in their pocket. Yet, they said there would be a national search and it appears the coach was already selected. You know the rest of the debacle with the emails and the rest.

    Bennett held to the values that many of the CCU supporters hold to. Moglia has not shown that he does and that rightfully frustrates some people. Moglia did not fall on his face, but he basically turned in the same season that people expected from Bennett. So what did Coastal lose but the man who built their program and shared their values?

    That is seen in the attendance this year. CCU may have gotten a good coach, but they did not figure the whole equation. Their supporters should hold them responsible.

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