COLUMBIA, S.C. — Coastal Carolina coach Joe Moglia increased the stock value of a company from $700 million to $10 billion in seven years. So he doesn’t think anyone should be surprised he could get the Football Championship Subdivision Chanticleers to the playoffs in his first year.
Plenty of people questioned Coastal Carolina when the school hired the man nicknamed the “Billionaire Coach.” Moglia coached a bit in high school and was an Ivy League assistant before heading into the business world in 1984.
After nearly two decades as a stock broker that were wildly successful, Moglia’s recent coaching resume included only two years as an unpaid executive adviser at Nebraska and a 1-4 record in 2011 as head coach of the UFL’s Omaha Nighthawks.
But Moglia sold the school on a simple idea — that putting together a successful business or a successful football team isn’t all that different.
“When I became a leader in the business world, I was a far better business leader because of my experience as a coach. I think frankly I am a better head coach at the college level because of my experience as a business leader,” said Moglia, who is best known for a 500 percent return as CEO of TD Ameritrade from 2001-08.
Coastal Carolina (7-4) won a share of the Big South Conference title and an automatic bid to the playoffs on a tiebreaker. The Chanticleers will be on the road Saturday for an opening-round game against Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion Bethune-Cookman (9-2).
It is the third playoff bid in Coastal Carolina’s 10 years of football, and it came as a bit of a surprise. Moglia took over for the man who got the program off the ground, David Bennett. His teams had hovered around .500 for the past five years, and fans braced for a tough season as Moglia put his coaches and his ideas in place.
The Chanticleers started 2-4. But one of those losses was to Toledo, and two came to other teams that made the FCS playoffs.
The bye week was during the losing streak, and Moglia said he changed some of what he was doing. Coastal Carolina finished the season winning its last five games and got some help when Liberty beat the best team in the Big South, Stony Brook. All three teams finished with a 5-1 record in the conference, and the automatic playoff bid went to the fourth tiebreaker, away victories, which the Chanticleers won because they swept their three road games.
“We really could have given up. But it was a great job by the coaches and the whole staff — everyone at Coastal Carolina — to keep us pushing,” said quarterback Aramis Hillary, a senior transfer from South Carolina.
Moglia discusses football in business terms. He talks about how important it is to hire good people to work as vice presidents or assistant coaches. He said it was important in both worlds to have a long-range plan, but be ready to adjust that plan quickly when something unexpected happens. Businesses have to figure out how to use their people and advantages to become a leader in their industries.
“In the world of football, we do the same thing,” Moglia said “What are the basic offense, defense and kicking systems? What are the strengths of our people, of our players? What are the things we understand? What are the things we can do? We adapt and adjust our systems to their skill sets so we can maximize the potential of our team. And then you apply that the best you can in terms of a game plan.”
The only real difference is in business, a leader gets judged by profits, while in football, the measurement is wins, Moglia said.
Moglia’s approach to football as a business is even apparent in the team’s media guide. In 2011, players’ photos were in their uniforms. In 2012, each player is wearing an identical tie in the team’s colors of teal and black and a dark blazer.
Coastal Carolina certainly took a risk hiring a guy with such little recent football experience. But as Moglia knows, carefully assessing a risk and taking it can reap big rewards.
“The ability to be able to put together a program or an organization and lay that foundation is something I’ve really been doing for the past 25 years of my life,” Moglia said.