Ex-CCU star Thigpen asks Board to reinstate Bennett

Former Coastal Carolina quarterback and current Buffalo Bills backup QB Tyler Thigpen wrote a scathing letter to the CCU Board of Trustees regarding last week’s unexpected firing of Chanticleers coach David Bennett.

In the letter, Thigpen details some of the great things Bennett did for CCU and some of the inaccuracies used in defense of his reassignment. The following is the unedited, uncut version of the letter:

To all members of the Coastal Carolina University Board of Trustees, I am writing to express my sincere disappointment and utter disgust in the dismissal of Head Football Coach David Bennett and request his immediate reinstatement as Head Football Coach. The following is based upon my opinion that I know to be true or was informed by sources that I deem to be reliable:

You are, or should be, well aware of Coach Bennett’s stature within the Coastal program as its only coach. Despite his countless hours of promoting the program, as well as the University as a whole, along with his tireless efforts to help make Coastal football a productive part of the greater Grand Strand and Pee Dee area though numerous outreach programs that benefit countless youth and families, Coach Bennett was wrongfully terminated. It is painfully evident the Board in its entirety was unaware of the plans to remove Coach Bennett from his position under what seems to be a hidden agenda from the University administrative personnel since the reasons given for his termination do not seem to add up to facts printed by the media.

Were that not the case, a meeting of the Board would not be taking place Friday, December 16, 2011 to discuss this situation. President DeCenzo now appears to be no better than all of the other “win at all costs” type of administrators who seem to dominate the landscape of college sports from what I perceived upon seeing the news conference online. Hunter Yurachek was brought in to be the Athletic Director as an outsider with no experience as an Athletic Director or connections to the University (much less the community) and seemed destined to make the change in the football program from the day he arrived on campus. Since he was named the AD, the program has won more than in the immediate years prior to his arrival. Despite claims of lower attendance and decreased revenue by the administration at the press conference to announce Coach Bennett being terminated, an article published online by The Carolina Forest Chronicle (12/15/11) show CCU’s own attendance figures are just the opposite with all-time high average attendance for the 2011 season, including the 4th largest crowd in CCU football history at the `11 season finale vs. Presbyterian.

Though we have no data available to the public at this point to prove to the contrary, based on what seem to be inaccurate statements of lower attendance I would like to see how much money has come into the CCU Athletic Department on an annual basis since football was started. However, it must be noted that it is not the responsibility of any particular coach to raise revenue or attendance. Those duties seem to fall on the shoulders of the administration of the athletic department and the University as a whole and have been wrongly attributed to Coach Bennett and the football program (despite increased attendance, which would seem likely to include increased ticket sales unless those tickets were being given away as charity – and were that the case, again it falls outside the auspices of the Head Football Coach and more likely to be in the realm of the Ticket Office).

Coach Bennett’s program has produced on the field in the last two years with a Big South Conference Championship, an NCAA Playoff appearance (which included a home game), and the program’s best record since my senior season in 2006, the last time the team won the Big South and also appeared in the NCAA FCS Playoffs as well.

Coach Bennett’s fingerprints are all over the most central physical structures in CCU football: the stadium and fieldhouse. I dare say CCU would not have either of those facilities were it not for Coach Bennett. His efforts in assisting to get the late Mr. Brooks to donate the money to help build the stadium, along with the money Coach Bennett raised to get the Benton family to name the playing field and the Atkins brothers to donate the money to get the field house construction started and named in their honor has been given little or no credit despite over $5,000,000 between those three donations. Mind you, Coach Bennett never asked for any recognition for securing those gifts.

An example of the pathetic leadership and initiative of CCU’s administration is seen in the banners on the front of Brooks Stadium. Coach Bennett had to have those banners designed himself and paid for them out of his own pocket. The Athletic Department nor the school’s Administration has done one credible thing to show the community the program’s accomplishments from a team standpoint, much less my or my former teammates’ accomplishments individually whether it was being named all-conference, all-american, academic all-american or playing in the NFL. So many things could have been done by the Athletic Department and Chanticleer Club to help grow the program, but they did very little to nothing to help the program as I see it. NO ONE wanted to see the football program grow and compete for a national title more than Coach Bennett. But no one offered to do any heavy lifting to help Coach Bennett and his staff reach such lofty if not irrational goals for a 9-year old program.

The last time I was at CCU this summer during the NFL Lockout, the only thing I noticed at the stadium to signify such successes were some wrapped concrete support poles at the stadium which had pictures of Quinton Teal (a fellow `06 Team Captain and NFL Player, CCU’s first NFL player to sign a contract in fact) and myself from when we played at Coastal, though neither of those wraps even denoted who the players are – which is pitiful.

I feel a change needs to be made in the leadership of the Athletic Department if not the University itself. My beliefs are based on an overall failure to meet goals that should have been accomplished from the time changes were made in the Administration since I was at Coastal. Though the field house was finally completed prior to the 2010 season (as the staff moved into the new offices, etc. after the school year ended, which made the facility unable to be used for recruiting until the most recent 2011 class was recruited and signed), it was off schedule over 5 years from its original expected completion, showing just how terrible a job the overall administration has done in supporting the football program under Coach Bennett.

Yes, the program finally has nice facilities, but not elite ones when compared to historical national powers at the FCS level and even when compared to some high schools. However, to even remotely think those facilities are on par with high level FCS programs which compete almost yearly for national rankings, much less championships, is sheer lunacy. Brooks Stadium seats less than many high school stadiums in our own state. For example, Byrnes High School in Spartanburg County has a football complex which rivals our new one, not to mention, that school and many other high schools now have video boards nice as or nicer than ours (which is also poorly utilized on game days, contributing to the declined attendance). That said, how are we to have an elite program when we have far less than elite facilities, budgets and salaries for our staff?

Administrative decisions have hindered the program from reaching the goals Dr. DeCenzo claimed he wants to see at the press conference when he announced Coach Bennett’s dismissal. One example is the football program has had its total number of roster spots reduced of late, which has lessened the football staff’s ability to properly prepare for games, as they have fewer healthy bodies to practice against and play with in competition. This is certainly a key issue for any coaching staff at any school, much less a program that is not even ten years old and is expected to compete against schools who have teams that are 10-times as established as our own.

The operating budget of the football program has stagnated at best, prohibiting the program’s growth and success. An example of our chief rival’s success is seen in Liberty, where the program has a double-decked stadium that seats approximately 20,000 (almost 3-times the size of Brooks Stadium), features numerous VIP luxury suites and an enhanced press and President’s Box, and a new video scoreboard that is nicer than even the University of South Carolina’s scoreboard. Along with that, Liberty has a relatively new field house as well, which is ALL football and not shared with any other sport, a staff much larger and more compensated than ours – and a new coach, Turner Gill, who is rumored to be under a new contract paying him $500,000 per year. Now, I ask, how is our program supposed to compete with that type of institutional commitment to success much less be superlative to it considering the difference in the resources?

If, as DeCenzo and Yurachek claim, the football program has a top twenty budget and resources, then Bennett and the staff met the administration’s stated goals by not only winning another Big South Conference Championship in 2010, but also qualified for the NCAA FCS Playoffs, hosting an opening round game, to place among the Top 20 teams (as only 20 teams qualify for the post-season). In 2011, the team was also ranked in the Top 20 again before suffering numerous, key injuries including some of the team’s top players and key backups. Had CCU not limited the squad size, maybe more healthy players could have limited such injuries or at least provided more healthy and prepared players to step in when those injuries occurred. With only 63 scholarship players, walk-ons are key to the overall success of the program. The administration limited how many walk-ons could participate in the program, hurting the overall depth and talent pool in a state where football talent is plentiful but is being turned away due to poor policies.

In our own conference (often referred to as one of the lesser conferences in FCS by many football coaches and administrators), we are not only third in football expenditures, but pale in comparison to Stony Brook, much less Liberty. Our program is over $2,000,000 underfunded in comparison to Stony Brook, who won the 2011 Big South title and earned the conference’s automatic NCAA Playoff spot – the first for that program. That figure is more than double behind Liberty, who spend over $4,000,000 more on football than Coastal, yet Liberty has yet to appear in a single NCAA FCS Playoff game – making Coach Bennett’s two FCS Playoff appearances all the more impressive.

Coach Bennett’s staff size has been cut, eliminating positions on his staff and also cut or limited staff salaries at the same time. A perfect example of this is Coach Kevin Brown’s salary. Once Coach Brown was named the Offensive Coordinator, his salary was not raised to the level of the previous Offensive Coordinator.

The inability of the Athletic Department and/or University to raise money to buy new lockers for the new field house resulted in the administration wanting to bring the old lockers from the old locker room into the new one, completely taking away the “newness” of the Atkins Field House and projecting a less than first class and winning commitment by the administration. Instead, Coach Bennett was instrumental in talking Coach Brown’s family into donating $200,000 to fund the purchase of top of the line new lockers, which are nicer than I have seen in most NFL locker rooms. Coach Brown is now looking at being unemployed, though the locker room is named for his family. This is utterly shameful and an embarrassment for the school.

I have even been informed by a former student athlete that a current member of the athletic department staff had two then-football players deliver some of the old lockers to his residence for his own personal use. Now, since those lockers were part of the old lockers which were sold to a local high school, giving some type of financial value to each unit, it begs the question did this athletic department employee reimburse the University for the value of those lockers? If not, would this constitute theft of University property, thus subjecting that employee to criminal penalties? That is a very important question since it would show a complete breakdown in the ethics which the University is allowing its employees to operate.

Perceived jealousy over Coach Bennett’s Coach Show has been evident in attempts to take the show away from Coach Bennett and bring it under the auspices of the CCU Athletic Department, even wanting to take the show away from the tv station that founded it and has supported CCU athletics in its coverage more than any other station in the area. Coach Bennett has also not been provided funds he was promised in his contract for numerous aspects of his program. His staff did not receive promised raises. Compare the salaries of the coaching staff against other FCS programs and see how Bennett’s staff pales in comparison to top-flight programs.

In my opinion, Athletic Department heads should have been fired and replaced with a staff more qualified, competent and capable of doing the job required to oversee better fundraising, scheduling, revenue growth and better oversight to avoid NCAA investigations. These improvements should have been put in place to provide all the athletic teams a better chance at success, much less the flagship program of the University: football.

I was told CCU leaders wanted to make changes to the football staff as far back as 2009, when the President of a member Big South Conference school was told that by CCU administrators that they were not fans of Coach Bennett’s 10-year contract and vowed to make changes in that area. This seems to me like a vendetta against Coach Bennett, maybe out of jealousy over salaries or perceived power or influence in the school and community. Instead of providing the needed support in all aspects to make the program a national power, CCU leaders seem as if they have been intending to remove Coach Bennett as far back as 3-years ago. However, it was probably not done due to the structure of Coach Bennett’s contract and the buyout which any change prior to the 5-year point in his contract requires.

In my opinion, Dr. DeCenzo and Hunter Yurachek have done a poor job of providing the football program with the tools and resources it needs to win a national championship. Coach Bennett has graciously taken the high road in his dismissal and the many times that the CCU Administration has made critical decisions that have hampered the growth of the program as a whole.

Keep in mind, we have two football power programs in our state: South Carolina and Clemson. They are so powerful that Clemson has a single national championship, which is one more than USC (our state’s other national title in football resides at Furman in 1988 – over 20 years ago). Clemson’s team has been so dominant that is has regularly had crowds of approximately 80,000 show up to watch them compete for 20-years to see them finally win their first ACC title since 1991. That is CLEMSON with only ONE conference title in the last 20 years. And they have been playing football since 1896, a tad longer than Coastal. Meanwhile, USC has enjoyed its most successful run ever under Steve Spurrier and is still seeking its first conference title since 1969 – the last and only time it won a conference championship – and that was in the ACC when it was only 8 teams. Since then, they have won a “division” title in 2010 – the same year CCU won its FOURTH conference championship since 2004 (four titles in seven years mind you). Now, how is it those two power house programs have so little to show in championships yet DeCenzo and Yurachek speak of a program in its infancy being expected to compete for a national title and pack the stands in bad economic times, all the while with an underfunded program in comparison to the teams it is expected to beat?? Sounds like absolute ignorance, if not stupidity as far as I am concerned. I want to win at that level here, too. I am just smart enough to know we still have lots of room to grow to get to that point seeing as we have not even had a team for a decade yet.

While the basketball program has been highly successful on the court, it has not qualified for the NCAA tournament. The basketball team hasn’t finished ranked in the Top 25. Kimbel Arena, despite being one of the smallest venues in all of college basketball (much less the Division I level) often falls short of capacity crowds. Despite winning 20 or more games each of the last two seasons with big wins recently over LSU and Clemson, if the basketball team doesn’t sell out the arena and make the NCAA Tournament, will Coach Cliff Ellis’ job then be in jeopardy as well? Under the criteria mentioned by DeCenzo and Yurachek at their press conference, maybe Coach Ellis needs to be worried about losing his job too, if he doesn’t win the Conference or at worst, receive an at-large bid to The Big Dance. I mean, Coach Ellis has a brand new basketball arena being completed (albeit years late also, like the fieldhouse was). If the new arena is not sold out each home game, and revenue is not up compared to the money being put into the basketball program, much less if the team doesn’t win the conference tournament and make the NCAA Tournament, as compared to the reasons Coach Bennett was fired – then Coach Ellis might want to consult with a good realtor. What a real travesty this would be. Coach Ellis is just starting to see his program blossom despite the lack of facilities and finances so many other similar programs have in advantage to the Chants. Surely the Administration would not be so short sighted as to make the same mistake twice? But their track record would leave concern to any rational person.

Worthless excuses are being made to fire Coach Bennett. The excuse of lower ticket sales is a cowardly way to fire Coach Bennett, especially in light of attendance records printed by The Carolina Forest Chronicle on 12/15/11. If that is the case, then we should not even have a baseball program. Despite the fact it is one of the nation’s top programs over the same time span the football team has existed, it has yet to even make the College World Series (final 8 teams) much less win a national title, despite the fact right here in our own state the University of South Carolina has won back-to-back National Championships the last two years and Clemson has qualified for the CWS many times in its history. That said, fan support of the baseball program during the regular season is even less than that of the basketball program. So do we now expect Coach Gary Gilmore to be fired next? If his ticket sales don’t pick up, especially compared to the fact a new indoor batting and pitching facility was built for his program and upgrades have been made to the baseball facilities, the type of travesty seen in Coach Bennett’s termination may be repeated in any program. If baseball is held to the same standard as football is apparently being held to, woe be unto Coach Gilmore if he doesn’t produce more revenue and make the CWS and compete for a national championship. Of course, I say that statement in pure jest. However, there is nothing funny about the funny-business that is going on in Coach Bennett’s being let go.

I certainly hope those scenarios are not the case as these men are doing outstanding jobs, just as Coach Bennett and his staff have since the program started. Under the strains of a downward economy, with gas prices at an all time high and unemployment not far behind, and the fact we are in an area not serviced by an interstate to make it that much harder for fans to come to all CCU athletic events. However, all of those negative factors did not deter fans from coming to 2010 and 2011 CCU football games to see a Conference Championship, an NCAA Playoff game and a 7-win season as attendance increased each year over the previous year according to published reports.

I surely hope these outstanding coaches along with the Soccer and Golf programs and many others who compete under the Chanticleers banner are not subject to the same kind of ill-conceived performance standards the football program was. I hope their jobs are not wrongly taken away from them as Coach Bennett’s was.

Coach Bennett has run the football program off of minimal institutional support and made it into a winner in every aspect. The University failed to take full advantage of the real estate boom, good economic times in the area and general euphoria of having a new football program, much less being accompanied with staggering success on the football field by the first four years of the program. This failure resulted in the football program continuing to be housed in what was supposed to be short-term or temporary offices, locker, meeting, equipment and training rooms which were terribly inadequate and hurt the long term value of the entire program. It’s too bad DeCenzo and Yurachek didn’t help shuttle players in trucks and cars over to a band field to conduct practices and dress three-to-a-locker in a make shift locker room as we started this program. Had they been, maybe they would have more appreciation for just how far this program has come instead of the short-sightedness they have exhibited.

Sure, Coach Bennett now has new offices, meeting rooms, weight rooms and so forth. However, he only had it to use in recruiting for one year. I feel the false allegations made by DeCenzo and Yurachek about Coach Bennett and his staff’s productivity show their ignorance and inability to properly do their jobs as President and AD, respectively.

The student body has grown to over three times the size it was when I matriculated as a freshman, largely in part to having a football team in general, much less a championship calibre program with 6 players who signed NFL contracts and 5 who played in the League and countless video clips on major television networks showing either CCU football highlights or us playing in the NFL and mentioning “Coastal Carolina” time and again. Funny, I don’t recall seeing one sign inside the football stadium where the fans can see all of the accomplishments of the program under Coach Bennett. Combined with the fact the team has produced at a high level in a very short period of time, the University has received national acclaim and attention beyond anything since its inception (barring the NCAA scandal that followed the men’s basketball team’s run to the NCAA Tournament in 1991, which is the last time the basketball team reached the NCAAs).

Coach Bennett’s dismissal was poorly conceived and seemed to be an unethically executed move, done behind the backs of many CCU Board Members and certainly without the approval of a consensus of the members. Politics has come into play in the Administration of both the University and the Athletic Department. The schools’ leaders made a terrible mistake as they very ignorantly underestimated Coach Bennett’s place in the University and greater Grand Strand / Pee Dee community as they believed him to be far less valued, respected and loved than he is.

This injustice which was carried out by the Administration should be dealt with swiftly with the immediate dismissal of all parties involved as far as I am concerned. I am ashamed to call myself a graduate of this institution due to the acts of these men and their outright lust for perceived gridiron success at the sacrifice of loyalty, ethics, character and dignity. Coach Bennett personified all of those traits and was the face of Coastal Carolina University. His good works both on the field and in the community were rewarded with a slap in the face and an ungrateful and disgraceful exit from a program he built from literally nothing before any of those men were in their present positions.

Coach Bennett and / or his program has been harangued by the CCU Administration for the better part of the last two football seasons, amounting to a conspiracy to remove Bennett to bring in a “hot, name coach” that the power brokers of the school wrongly perceive will bring more interest and financial support to the CCU program. Thing is, in the short-sightedness of these people, they apparently cited financial issues for firing Coach Bennett. Yet at the same time, CCU will now have to pay Coach Bennett his buyout, still continue to pay some assistant coaches for another year (even if the new coach does not retain them), pay the rest of the staff through February and then have to pay a new coach his salary, which will surely have to be more than Coach Bennett was paid if the economic trend in college football continues, and lastly, will have to pay the new assistants and probably spend more on the operating budget just to get someone to take over the magnificent job Coach Bennett has been doing. Way to go guys — put the program in even deeper financial straights you claim it is enduring.

This is a misplaced and misguided philosophy which will not succeed. The administration’s supposed hand-picked successor in Spurrier, Jr. apparently turned down the job right away and was then rumored to be followed by a second USC assistant turning down the job as well. That’s how big a misperception the administration had in thinking they could get someone to do a better job than Coach Bennett has done and would continue to do.

Dr. DeCenzo, Yurachek, Eddie Dyer and Lawson Holland have made a terrible mistake in the future of the CCU Football program. They have killed the life of the program, if not the entire University. Coach Bennett IS Coastal Carolina more than anyone in the school’s history. I hear the community is very, very upset. Apparently the Cliff Ellis radio show had to be canceled on 12/13 due to difficulties with sponsors following Coach Bennett’s firing. I have even heard that car dealers are calling in their program cars from the CCU staff over Coach Bennett’s firing. Maybe that in itself is a major reason for what I see as pure jealousy on behalf of these men and some others, including Board Members, in deciding to let Coach Bennett go despite a WINNING record and recent conference championship. Is it really all about the money? If it is then let’s just close the athletic department as I’m guessing it does not make a profit. If we want to run the football program like a business, let’s run the whole athletic department like one. Oh wait, we can’t do that due to Federal Law called Title IX.

No coach of the stature the school claims to want will come here for the money the school will probably pay. This was Coach Bennett’s program. He planned on being here for the long haul. He didn’t do the job for the money. He did it for the love of his players and the school. But he is being ran off for the money if we are to believe what we heard from DeCenzo and Yurachek.

Coach Bennett has done nothing to deserve being replaced, much less treated this way. His program had two very solid years in 2010 and 2011 despite many hurdles that seemed to be put in his way by Administrative officials. A Conference title, the playoffs and 7 wins the next year are better than most programs in FCS in that time. And the team did that in the same two years that USC had their most successful two-years in history and Clemson won its first ACC title in twenty years. Think about that: the administration is complaining about attendance when the state’s two big teams were having two of their most successful years in decades, if not ever. All while the economy has been at its worst since the 1930’s and the cost of living is higher than ever and the high-ups complain about lower attendance – all the while it was actually not decreasing but increasing per published reports?? What a joke. Are these people serious? Maybe they need to go over to the Wall School of Business and learn a few things before they start to analyze the money factors of a program that is 9-years old and competes for fans with Clemson, South Carolina, North Carolina, N.C. State and many other teams within a few hours drive.

Here is a great example of how to properly run a program from an administrative standpoint: at Wofford College in Spartanburg (who we beat our senior year when the Terriers were nationally ranked), Mike Ayers is their coach and has been since 1988. He has had a few down years, even recently in 2009 with a 3-8 team I think. But the college and community have been and continue to be loyal to their coach, resulting in a stable, very competitive and championship level program. He is their coach through good times and bad – at a program that has been around since 1889 – well over 120 years – and they have never won a national championship in the history of their program either. How is it the CCU administration justifies turning their backs on Coach Bennett when he has not had but two losing seasons in 9-years, with one of those being the 2007 season that followed an NCAA Playoff and Big South Championship from a team laden with over 35-seniors.

A rebuilding year in 2007 still saw Coach Bennett have a very competitive 5-6 season. Keep in mind, five of the losses in the last four years have come on the road to FBS programs including #22 Penn State, Kent State, Clemson, #25 West Virginia, and 2011 SEC East Champion and currently #18 ranked Georgia. Where did the “guarantee money” from those beatings go? Certainly not all of it went to football. The football team took those losses so the athletic department could have income to help off-set the revenue that wasn’t being raised by the other sports. Now let DeCenzo and Yurachek talk about the lack of football revenue? Were it not for Coach Bennett’s teams taking the brunt of the impact, literally and figuratively, Yurachek’s other sports would not be able to function at the levels they do.

For his self-sacrifice, loyalty and sheer determination to make something grande from nothing, Bennett deserved better than this. For their stupidity in making an ill-found decision to replace Bennett and the manner in which they chose to do it, at the very least I think DeCenzo and Yurachek should be officially reprimanded and in my opinion as a graduate and former team captain deserve to be terminated immediately.

As an alumnus, I vow that I will not donate a single penny to this institution again nor take part in any University function which may assist the school in raising any money until something is done about this. This means that I will not allow my image, autograph or name to be associated with the University in any manner which violates my wishes. Though the University may still be allowed to legally display images of me from my CCU playing days, in no way do I want my name associated in the future with the University or the Football program in any fundraising campaigns, advertisements, promotional considerations, etc., until this travesty orchestrated by DeCenzo and Yurachek is addressed and corrected.

I furthermore ask that the banner with my picture on the front of Brooks Stadium, as it has the NFL logo and my name on it, be removed immediately (especially since Coach Bennett paid for it to be made out of his own pocket). Any images of me from my playing days at CCU will not have my name affiliated with said pictures. No pictures of me in any capacity with an NFL team will be allowed to be used by the University in any manner, including any posters promoting the football program, in the media guide or programs sold at home games nor on the school’s website (as all of those are tools used to help generate revenue). I also request the refund of my donation for the naming rights of the QB Coach’s Office / Meeting Rooms as I now consider those funds obtained under false pretenses. I no longer wish to have my name associated with those rooms.

Should the Board care to call me to discuss my opinions, as no one cared to call and ask for them prior to the dismissal of Coach Bennett, I will be glad to discuss this matter at my convenience. My dismay in what has transpired at CCU with Coach Bennett has basically killed my love for the school, as I now see it is run by people who do not share the same values as I or Coach Bennett have. I feel my time at CCU, though beneficial to me in my academic and professional career, is just as unappreciated as Coach Bennett’s hard work – especially in light of factors of which I am now aware that resulted in Coach Bennett’s dismissal.

My disdain for DeCenzo, Yurachek, Dyer and Holland are the direct cause of my choice to sever any and all ties I have to Coastal Carolina University and its football program. My hope is that all of my fellow NFL alumni and all other professional athletes with ties to CUU do the same in protest of Coach Bennett’s firing. I understand my image adorns several walls and other physical structures on campus and in various offices. I respectfully ask for all of those to be removed immediately and demand my name be removed from any pictures which are allowed to stay in place if they depict my playing days at CCU. If Coach Bennett is not good enough for Coastal anymore, nor am I. As for the fundraising arm of the athletic department, I also request to never be contacted again in any form for any University sponsored or affiliated function, in any capacity whether it be official / unofficial, formal or informal. Any future items bearing my signature or image in the NFL to be auctioned at any University function for any reason should be discontinued. As of today, Coastal Carolina no longer has an NFL Quarterback as a booster, fan or alumnus.

Furthermore, I will make a formal request to the NFL and the Buffalo Bills’ PR departments to have my college affiliation removed, to be replaced with my high school. DeCenzo and Yurachek have cost the University my support in every facet. Even their firings will not heal any time soon the hurt I feel from the acts of these men toward Coach Bennett and the football program itself. However, Coach Bennett being reinstated would at least start a mending process which may take years to fully recover.

Though I will always be a graduate of Coastal Carolina and a founding member of the Chanticleer Football program, I will not in any way assimilate myself with the school in the future, including any assistance in helping recruit any new players in years to come.

My trust towards the University has been lost due to the actions of DeCenzo, Yurachek, Dyer and Holland. Coastal is supposed to be a place of higher learning and education. From this past week’s events involving Coach Bennett, I have learned not to trust Dr. DeCenzo, Yurachek, Dyer and Holland among others. They have educated me on the fact no appreciation exists for people who do a good job and go above and beyond their job description to teach loyalty, commitment, hard work, and the true meanings of life while helping guide boys as they entered Coastal into men as they graduated. Along the way, those young men were guided to four conference championships and 63-wins against 39-losses and competed in the NCAA FCS Playoffs, twice (that is twice more than Liberty did in that span even though they outspend CCU by over $4,000,000 per year on just football).

There are so many more examples which could be listed to show how Coach Bennett was the best thing to ever happen to CCU, not to mention examples to show how DeCenzo and Yurachek combined to lessen the success of the program at the same time. However, time just will not permit me to list them all at present.

It is our program. It is our school. Neither DeCenzo, Yurachek, Dyer or Holland graduated from Coastal. I did. My teammates did. We sacrificed. We bled. We gave our all to see the Chanticleers football program go from non-existent to a Championship and NCAA Playoff level. It’s our program, not yours. You are merely custodians of our school and our football program. We want our coach back! Reinstate our coach to our program! Admit you made a mistake. Swallow your pride. Be able to say you made an error in judgment. In the eyes of the University, Coastal community, the State of South Carolina and around the nation, this has been seen as just wrong. I have people in the NFL even asking me how could they fire your coach? Board Members: if your job is to do what is best for our University in a fiduciary capacity as appointed officials, then do what is best and reinstate Coach Bennett. Please do what is right and put Coach Bennett back in charge of our football program. Thank you.


Tyler B. Thigpen

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2 responses to “Ex-CCU star Thigpen asks Board to reinstate Bennett”

  1. sleend says:

    I stated on Friday night that they fired the wrong David, I stand by my remarks

  2. MB Chant Fan says:

    Open Letter to Tyler Thigpen:

    Shame on you. You do David Bennett a terrible diservice with this letter. Like so many of those locally who quickly point to the man’s great character, you sure didn’t learn much from him.

    Regardless of your opinion on his firing (I, to be open, agree with it; why isn’t improtant here.), why not take a page from the great man’s playbook and handle it with some dignity and maturity?

    Your petulent, entitled, ego is the polar opposite of what Coach Bennett tried to instill in his players. You even take note of how “high” a road he’s taken in his handling of this. Still no sense of restraint, or humility on your end?

    You are of coarse entitled to an opinion; but how about professing it without all the vitriol and condemnation that you in turn accuse those “in charge” of displaying in their firing of Bennett and their operating of the University. Pot meet kettle. Show some class.

    Leave the decisions to those entilled to make them. I’m quite sure they’ve earned their way into their positions, much like Coach Bennett did, and much like you are professionally trying to do. They too are human, and erring may cause their own downfall; time will tell.
    As for your threats and indignations, please stop and think about how naive you’re making yourself sound. Who exactly is your vengful “taking back” of your donations, persona, etc going to effect? Some evil administration? Those that have been looking beyond Bennett?

    No, every dollar not collected by the CCU football program requires one more dollar to be spent on it by the University as a whole. That’s one less dollar for anything else. Football (and men’s basketball in schools large enough to consider hoops a “revenue” sport) requires the highest dollar spend. It also, if run as a successful program, has the potential to be the ONLY source of money (i.e. profit) returned to the school via a sport. In most cases, football subsudizes many of the other sports on campus. So, take your money, and while you’re at it, give a big “FU” to the other student athletes on campus; THAT’s who your “hurting”.

    While we’re on the subject of your personal reducing of funding, you’re right that CCU is underbudgeted. Until those alums who really make it, i.e your ilk, start really stepping up, it’s likely to stay that way.

    The other option is through cultivating future donors via the student population, which schools you mention (USC and Clemson) are rife with. As referenced today (where actual facts are listed, unlike your assertations), the state of the current football program is not helping in that arena. How many of your games was Brooks stadium at 25% capacity, and how ridiculous would it look if it had that many people in a Liberty sized stadium, as you would like?

    Also, why throw basketball, a wholly unrelated to the situation topic, under the bus? Unlike Football, there is only 1 division withn “Division 1”. CCU smelling the top 25, beating power conference teams, and earning post-season berths IS EXTREMELY commendable. Imagine if Bennett’s teams weren’t hidden behind the I-AA equalizer wall. Where would we be? Yes basketball will never “rank” with the Kentuckys of the world. They aren’t meant to, hence the title “mid-major”. They are still looking to dominate the conference and occassionally knock off a power. Something that has INDEED come to be the norm via Coach Ellis.

    Please be realistic in your comparisons between schools, and within sports at our own. I can’t even call them apples to oranges, they’re more like apples to steak.

    Truth is, you were lucky to be part of a special class here, that included some of the best talent we’ve seen. Likely, the aspect of getting 4 years playing time drew that higher level of talent back then. It hasn’t continued now that we’re past that. Last year we “lucked into” the Conf Title with a completely unexpected blowout of the team that should have won. This year we got our butts kicked worse than ever by our biggest rivals. The trend is not positive. Even most of the chatter on campus (talk to more of the current team) sensed the time for a change. David is loyal to a fault; changes were forced on him 2 years ago, yet he wasn’t even considering anything in the forseable future. Something had to… this time it was him.

    In short, thanks for what you did, much like I’ll thank Coach Bennett for what he’s done. Now it’s time for the next chapter, and we’ll pull for it to be a success, with or with out you.

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