DeCenzo, Yurachek raise bar for next coach, themselves

Since coaches are ultimately judged by their won-lost records, shouldn’t the people responsible for hiring and firing them be held to the same standard?

It seems only fair in the firing (I’m sorry, “reassignment”) of Coastal Carolina football coach David Bennett, who was blindsided Friday after going 63-39 in nine seasons at CCU.

It seems the godfather of Coastal football just wasn’t cutting it anymore. Ticket sales were down, expenditures were up and the Chants had only a 29-28 record over the past five years to show for it.

OK, so it’s a bit tough, but it’s a tough business. Coaches are hired to be fired, some fired football coach once said, and Coastal has every right to aspire for higher than barely winning football.

But for such lofty standards, it may come as a surprise that the two key figures in making the decision – CCU president David DeCenzo and athletic director Hunter Yurachek – have virtually zero backgrounds with winning football programs – except this one.

They certainly talked the part when they announced the need for new leadership to make Coastal a “top 20” program at Friday night’s hastily called press conference. Bennett was informed of the decision only a short time earlier, greeted from a long week on the recruiting trail with the bad news about an hour before he was scheduled to appear at the S.C. Mr. Football banquet.

Coincidentally, the only football coach Yurachek has been involved in hiring got the same spiel two weeks ago, except he was fired over the phone while on the road to his mother’s funeral (tough business, indeed). That was ex-coach Ron Ianello, whom Yurachek helped hire as Akron’s executive senior associate athletic director, a fancy title for, as his bio says, “working closely with the football program”, among other duties.

While Yurachek left for Coastal, Ianello won a total of two games in two years with the Zips. That’s 2-22 compared to Bennett’s 13-10 over the same span. Before that, Yurachek was at Virginia when Al Groh was in the middle of his mediocre 59-53 decade with the Cavs. And before that, he was at Western Carolina and Vanderbilt, both closer to college football poorhouses than powerhouses.

DeCenzo spent most of his pre-Coastal career at Towson State during the tenures of longtime coaches Phil Albert, who went 22-40-1 during DeCenzo’s time there, and Gordy Combs, who went a tidy 91-91 in 12 seasons at Towson.

In fairness, neither DeCenzo nor Yurachek were responsible for choosing the coaches. That’s for the school president and the AD to do. But now that they are the president and AD, they also have no previous experience in hiring or working with a successful football coach. Bennett looks like Bear Bryant compared to the coaches they have been affiliated with during their careers.

I’m not saying they can’t, just that they haven’t – yet. And there’s no reason to believe they won’t. DeCenzo has the ultimate say and a solid history of coaching hirings at Coastal. He pulled a major coup by snagging men’s basketball coach Cliff Ellis, who is among the top 10 winningest active coaches in the game, and also helped retain baseball coach Gary Gilmore.

And he hired Yurachek, a dramatic improvement over his predecessor and, by all accounts, doing a fantastic job at Coastal. It’s too early to tell if the hires he has made in non-revenue sports will pan out, but he has certainly brought in some impressive resumes.

Both men are respected for the work they have done for Coastal athletics in general, and they are smart enough to consult football experts with more experience in finding “the man” for the job. I have no doubt they will bring in a big name (or a familiar one, like Steve Spurrier Jr., as the rumor mill has already produced), but they will be judged largely on his success or failure.

The Coastal job is a great opportunity and the resumes are already piling up. Let’s just hope, for Coastal’s sake, that the two men who have raised the bar so high are also able to hire someone who can reach it.

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4 responses to “DeCenzo, Yurachek raise bar for next coach, themselves”

  1. mark Gray says:

    One of the reasons for coach Bennett loosing his job was lack of support coastal needs a student group like Maizen-Rage or the Orange Crush .The school only recently open the field house making their facilities on par could have waited a year or two longer before making this decision.

  2. Tom Bishop says:

    I think there is some internal politics going on and the smear job is laying at the feet of that inept AD they just hired. That guy has skipped around in various jobs and everything he has tough turned to . He is the one responsible for the coach’s dismissal.
    This will turn out to be a terrible mistake. The coach’s job is to COACH and win games. An apathetic student body is not his concern.

  3. Carolina Forest Fan says:

    How can a man like Yurachek be respected in sports period. He has a HORRIBLE attitude and should not be anywhere near kids or any athletic program.

  4. NMBHeelsFan says:

    Glad to hear someone from CF say that. I actually ended up sitting near him at a recent CF basketball game, and his behavior was embarrassing. The guy is a professional representing CCU in the community sight, and he is yelling and screaming threats at referees at a high school basketball game.

    I am all for someone getting in to the game, but his actions were well beyond that. Immature and classless.

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