Coastal Carolina’s coach is in the business of winning

November 19, 2013 


YOU KNOW YOU ARE dealing with a different kind of football coach when he opens his weekly news conference by saying the “power of compounding” will be necessary for his team to best deal with the opponent’s triple-option offense.

Uh-huh. And how is that, coach?

“That is very, very true with teaching. That is very, very true with football, and that is very, very real,” said Coastal Carolina coach Joe Moglia who is convinced that the compounding principles of interest earnings in the business world correlate directly to the compounding of knowledge through repetition on the football practice field.

“Pragmatically, this is probably the first week we’ve been able to take a serious look at that and get ready for that,” Moglia said two weeks ago as he prepared for Charleston Southern’s triple-option attack.

Not only is Moglia introducing new terms and methodology to the football coaching profession, he also is greatly expanding the vocabulary of that trade. Rest assured, Moglia is the first coach to use the words “compounding” and “pragmatically” in a scouting report.

Of course, Moglia also is the first head college football coach with a resume that includes being the former chief executive officer for one of the country’s leading online brokerage firms. There probably never has been a coach who could list a reported net worth of $150 million, either.

Moglia counted nearly two decades of football coaching experience at the high school and college levels before he made his fortune as the CEO of TD Ameritrade from 2001-08 and as a board member at AXA Financial, Inc., from 2008-12.

“I’ve often said I am a much better businessman because of the 16 years I spent coaching before I went to the business world,” Moglia said recently from his office on the third floor of Coastal Carolina’s Adkins Field House. “I think I am a much better coach because of my experience as a guy in the business world.”

Now Moglia said he applies many of the same strategies of managing a company to coaching a football team. The parallels are multiple. Same principles, he repeats often, different product.

“OK, so I have to worry about how effective are we going to be shutting down the triple-option, how our organization works, our recruiting, etc. That’s the (football) product,” Moglia says. “At TD Ameritrade, we want to be able to create a platform that allows you to access your risk-reward, so you will be able to decide what stock you want to buy or sell. That’s the (business) product.”

Moglia is mostly an observer at Coastal Carolina practices. He totes a small pad to jot down notes, most of which have to do with how well his assistant coaches teach. Immediately following every practice, Moglia meets with his assistants to review his usual three pages of observations about their performances.

Moglia is most concerned about how his players learn to play the game, and therefore how it is taught to them. Before every season, all players and every member of the coaching staff is directed to the campus learning center where tests are conducted to determine how each person best learns.

Some learn best kinesthetically, through movement. Others visually, and still others auditorily, or through hearing. Once each position coach knows the learning strength of each of his players, he can best teach to those players needs.

Players are encouraged to clamor for help if they do not understand a concept on the practice field. Otherwise, according to Moglia, instead of a coach or player compounding knowledge, he is compounding an error.

“How I get my information across, that is one hundred percent my responsibility,” Moglia said. “If you don’t understand it, that’s my fault. I realized that when I first started coaching, then I used that in the business world where you have to have a strategic plan that is sophisticated enough to penetrate the respective markets you are going after so you can be a leader in that particular market niche. But if it’s not simple enough for everyone to understand, you can’t execute it.”

Moglia has extended his teaching off the field because he said it is paramount to strong managing — in business or in coaching — to have a positive impact on those he oversees. Thursday practices are shortened so the team can congregate in a meeting room for “Life After Football” sessions.

A recent subject of discussion concerned the ACLU’s desire to remove prayer from the military. Another focused on Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, a Russian historian and critic of Communist totalitarianism. Still another, on world terrorism.

“He’s a very smart man. I love listening to him speak and the words that he uses,” said junior linebacker Quinn Backus, who admitted to occasionally consulting a dictionary following Moglia’s talks. “I’m like, I’ve never heard that word before. He says so much, you learn something new every time he speaks.”

A year ago, prior to the Presidential election, Moglia distributed a one-page study guide with the two candidates stances on major issues. Then Moglia presented a three-week session on the issues and, instead of extending practices on election day when there were no classes, he cancelled all football activities to make certain his players voted.

In addition to being a source of knowledge for the players, Coastal Carolina athletics director Hunter Yurachek has tapped into Moglia’s management and financing background.

“We’ve had some dinners where we talk about some leadership things and financial things, both professionally and personally and to seek his advice,” Yurachek said. “To have that breadth of knowledge at your disposal, you surely want to use it as you can.”

Yurachek said when Moglia arrived at Coastal Carolina prior to the 2012 season, the new coach broke down the football budget to the penny. In the end, Moglia diverted some money to recruiting that previously had been spent on equipment and apparel. Of course, Moglia also told his boss that more funding was needed for Coastal Carolina to compete for a national championship.

There already has been a return — OK, a compounding — on that additional funding. Coastal Carolina won the Big South a season ago and finished with an 8-5 record. The Chanticleers carry an 11-1 record into Saturday’s game against South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium and are likely to receive an at-large bid to the FCS playoffs.

“It is no surprise that Joe has been successful at Coastal Carolina. He is a phenomenal person and leader, extremely intelligent and very driven,” said Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, where Moglia served as a volunteer executive advisor to the head coach in 2009-10. “In his time in our program at Nebraska, people gravitated toward Joe. He has a personality that people are drawn to, and I think that is part of the reason he has been so successful in everything he has done.”

Still, even with his success in the business world, there were more skeptics than not when the now 64-year-old Moglia was hired at Coastal Carolina. It seemed to the football world to be a tremendous gamble on the athletics department’s part.

“This is not a gamble,” Moglia said. “I’ve never had anything in my career that I at least didn’t improve. ... There is more empirical evidence that would suggest that it can work this way.”

Empirical evidence, huh? There he goes again, using a word never included in a football coach’s vocabulary.

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