By Paul Gable
The firing of Coastal Carolina University football coach David Bennett on December 9, 2011 caused an uproar among many CCU football fans in the area.
Bennett, the only coach in the program’s history to that point, was respected not only for taking the CCU program from zero to four Big South Conference championships in 10 seasons, but also for his personal values and charitable work in the local community.
Now we find that Bennett’s firing and replacement had a darker side that, frankly, Bennett did not deserve either personally or professionally.
Michael Smith disclosed in an article in the Carolina Forest Chronicle last Wednesday that CCU President David DeCenzo had gone behind Bennett’s back last fall to find a replacement before ever telling the coach that he was out.
According to e-mails Smith received from CCU as the result of Freedom of Information requests, DeCenzo contacted Joe Moglia, the former CEO of TD Ameritrade, telling the retired billionaire that he (DeCenzo) wanted to talk with Moglia about the CCU football program. This contact occurred on Nov. 14, 2011, according to the Smith article.
It wasn’t like Moglia was some hotshot football coach who had suddenly become available for a job. Moglia coached high school and small college football for 16 years before leaving coaching to become a trader with Merrill Lynch in 1983.
In 2008, Moglia stepped down as CEO of TD Ameritrade, retaining the title of Chairman, to begin his quest to become a college head football coach. He took a position of unpaid assistant/mentor with the University of Nebraska football team.
After two years at Nebraska, Moglia moved to the United Football League, a minor professional league, in 2010 as head coach of the Virginia Destroyers. He became head coach and president of the Omaha Nighthawks in the same league in 2011. According to the UFL website, Moglia’s record was 1-3 with Omaha in the 2011 season.
Nevertheless, DeCenzo moved forward with attracting Moglia to CCU, inviting the billionaire to a business breakfast on Nov. 23rd in Pawleys Island.
The breakfast led to a Dec. 3rd e-mail from DeCenzo to Moglia in which the CCU president finalized plans for Moglia to visit CCU to have a meeting with several “key players at the university.” In addition to DeCenzo, Moglia was to meet with board chairman D. Wyatt Hendeson, board athletic committee chair Gene Spivey, athletic director Hunter Yurachek, chief operating officer Eddie Dyer.
However, the DeCenzo Dec. 3rd e-mail, according to Smith’s article, also included the statement by DeCenzo to Moglia, “…my style is one of being direct and to the point. It is our intention to offer you the head coaching job at the meeting.”
Six days before Bennett was told he was fired, DeCenzo told Moglia he would be offered the job as Bennett’s replacement. This runs counter to a statement made by DeCenzo at the press conference held Dec. 9th announcing Bennett’s firing. There DeCenzo told the press that, “Our Director of Athletics will shortly commence a search for our Head Coach and Director of Football operations.”
Why lie? DeCenzo’s deviousness, in his dealings with Bennett and Moglia, certainly belies his self-description as being “direct and to the point.”
Is it too much to ask the university president to be upfront and open in his actions and not to lie in his statements to the public? I don’t think so.
Bennett deserved better from the university he served faithfully for 11 years as football coach. This is not to say he shouldn’t have been replaced. That is a decision for DeCenzo and the university.
But, Bennett should have been given the courtesy of not having university officials go behind his back to find his replacement before he is ever told he is finished and DeCenzo should have been smart enough not to put himself in a position to be caught in a lie.