Coastal cites need for new leadership in firing Bennett

 

The only coach Coastal Carolina University has ever known was relieved of his duties Friday.

After building the school’s football program from scratch when he was hired in 2002, David Bennett was reassigned to another area of the athletic department, a common practice for schools looking to fire a coach under a long-term contract.

At a hastily called press conference at 7 p.m. Friday, CCU president David DeCenzo and athletics director Hunter Yurachek announced the decision. Citing an overall lack of excitement and progress in the program, DeCenzo announced the move and took issue with the use of the term “firing.”.

“This was, to date, the hardest decision I have had to make as president of this institution,” DeCenzo said. “However, following an exhaustive review and assessment of our football program, I have concluded that new leadership is necessary to direct our program toward its goals. We will be forever grateful to David for shepherding our program from its beginning and developing our student-athletes into responsible members of our community.”

Bennett is the only head coach Coastal’s football program has known, coming to Conway in 2002 and laying the foundation for the 2003 inaugural season. Bennett led the Chanticleers to a surprising 6-5 record in their first season and even more shocking 10-win seasons for one of the most successful starts to a football program in NCAA history.

But the football program has yet to equal those heights in the five years since, going 29-28 during that span, although CCU did win the Big South Conference and the league’s automatic berth in 2010. Bennett compiled a 63-39 record in nine seasons at Coastal, but he went 7-4 this season and was blown out by Liberty and Stony Brook.

However, it may have been the loss that was sandwiched by those games that hurt Bennett’s credibility the most. In the Oct. 22 homecoming game against Gardner-Webb, the Chants scored a game-tying touchdown in the final 2 minutes but were penalized 15 yards for excessive celebration. After the go-ahead PAT made it 24-23 Coastal, the Chants committed two more 15-yard personal foul penalities on the kickoff and gave G-W the ball on the 14-yard line, allowing them to kick the game-winning field goal for a 26-24 victory.

DeCenzo and Yurachek denied any particular incident prompted the change, instead saying the move came as a result of an overall review of the program that showed shortcomings. Both mentioned the phrase “return on investment,” referring to the new field house and other facilities the university has built in recent years to help the football program improve.

“I was asked to complete a thorough evaluation of our football program that included a review of all on and off the field areas associated with the program,” Yurachek said. “Upon finalizing this evaluation, it was decided that a change of leadership was necessary for our football program to continue to grow and achieve the level of success that is reflective of the investment the University has made in the program.”

Neither set a timetable for hiring a new coach, although they did acknowledge the sensitivity of the football recruiting season. In fact, Bennett had spent the week on the road recruiting and returned late Friday afternoon to learn of the decision. He had planned to attend the S.C. Mr. Football Award presentation in Myrtle Beach. He was not available for comment Friday.

“A search for our new head coach will begin immediately with an aggressive timetable. I anticipate a significant level of interest from candidates across the country,” Yurachek said.

Bennett owns a 16-year career head coaching record of 126-56, including a 63-17 mark in seven years at Catawba College prior to starting the Coastal Carolina program.

Bennett led CCU to four Big South championships (2004, 2005, 2006 and 2010) and was named the league’s Coach of the Year twice (2004 and 2010). He led Coastal to the Big South’s first and only NCAA at-large playoff berth in 2006, while earning the league’s first NCAA automatic playoff berth in 2010.

 

UPDATE: WPDE’s Rich Chrampanis sat down with Coach Bennett last night for a few minutes. Here’s the video of that interview:

 

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One response to “Coastal cites need for new leadership in firing Bennett”

  1. Ron McGill says:

    Wow. Very impressed with this man and how he’s handling this issue. He’s made the University look rather bad on how they’ve handled themselves. GOD bless coach and good luck to him in the future. He’s got his head on straight and has his priorities in place.

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