It's ironic how Joe Moglia's hiring as Coastal Carolina's head football coach draws so much scrutiny.
Here's a coach who left the profession for the business world for 26 years only to return in 2009, first in a volunteer role for two seasons and then for one season in the troubled United Football League.
Yet what Moglia says most people fail to recognize is that he's been more equipped for his return to coaching football than he was in 1984 training alongside a bunch of MBA graduates 10 years younger than him.
"There is a very real parallel here," said the 62-year-old first-time head coach of a college program. "When I got to the business world, most people said, 'Well, gee, this guy doesn't have anything near a business background. All he's been doing is coaching football.'
"This is my 20th season in football and I've been doing this now for the last four years. But people kind of forget that and they say, 'Hey, this guy's coming from the business world, what does he really know about football?' I'm actually far more qualified to go back to football than I was to go from football to business the first time around."
If Moglia had been named Coastal Carolina's head coach on his birthday - April Fool's Day - instead of two months ago, many Chanticleers fans may have laughed off the announcement as a practical joke.
Only 11 days after firing the only head coach in the program's history - the highly successful David Bennett - the Big South Conference university in Conway, S.C., hired the vastly successful former CEO of the on-line brokerage firm Ameritrade. It was surprising, if not upsetting, to many alumni.
Old enough to be a grandfather to his new players, Moglia has an unusual story, but he doesn't believe he has to explain himself to others. It might look like he's trying to live a real-life version of Fantasy Football in his golden years, but he just happens to think of his life more along the lines of Nick Saban and Urban Meyer than Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.
"I would waste a whole lot of energy if I worried too much about what everybody else thought," Moglia said. "I know the job that I need to do. And while at the end of the day, I'd agree with you, I think there are people saying, 'Gee, what's this all about?' I think there also are people saying, 'Hey, you know what, this guy really does bring some special skill sets to the table.'"
GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS
Joe Moglia (pronounced with a silent "g") is making $175,000 in the first of a five-year deal to coach Coastal Carolina. His salary is dwarfed by the reported $14 million that he averaged as the Ameritrade CEO from 2001 to 2008, when he also held more than $100 million in stock from the multi-billion- dollar company.
He hasn't separated his business acumen from his coaching style. He analyzes a situation and develops a game plan for every part of the job.
After being hired by Coastal Carolina on Dec. 20, Moglia didn't try to make up for lost time on the recruiting trails, realizing the Chanticleers would lose some high school seniors due to the coaching change. His new program wound up having the smallest signing class in the conference, but Moglia felt it was more important to focus on finding the right coaching staff than chasing the wrong players at the last minute.
His new offensive coordinator, Dave Patenaude, wasn't named until Jan. 26, and his new defensive coordinator, Clayton Carlin, was announced on national signing day Feb. 1, when Moglia unveiled 11 recruits.
"The No. 1 priority for me was to think a little bit long-term and recognize that the most important decisions that I was making today were going to be the quality of the people I was bringing in in terms of my staff," Moglia said.
"So for the most part we were kind of finishing the last part of recruiting season pretty much short-handed. But I thought that that was a smart, long- term decision to be able to make for Coastal Carolina and our program. Frankly, that long term versus the short term is something that really does carry a lot of weight in the business world."
It's not surprising that since Moglia's arrival on campus some of his new players have drawn on his past to start thinking about their futures, whether it be to discuss a possible major or an internship, or life after football.
As standout defensive end Chris Thomas, who will be a redshirt senior this season, says Moglia makes the people around him accountable for themselves.
"I think this is very much about decisions you make on people, whether they are executives, whether they are employees, whether they're coaches, whether they're players," Moglia said. "It's about motivating and exciting them, it's about uniting them, it's about having a well thought-out strategy, it's about knowing how to compete, it's knowing how to execute, it's knowing about being organized and handling yourself under pressure."
LIFE IN FOOTBALL, THEN OUT, THEN IN AGAIN
For 16 years, Moglia was a successful football coach. He turned around two high school programs in Delaware, was on the staff at Lafayette and then was the defensive coordinator of back-to-back Ivy League co-championship squads at Dartmouth in 1982 and '83.
But after Moglia and his wife divorced, he didn't want to be far from their four children, a scenario that he faced if he remained in a profession that often takes coaches from one job to another.
An economics major as an undergraduate at Fordham, Moglia entered a training program at Merrill Lynch in 1984 and quickly took to the career change. He rose through the ranks at the investment giant and stayed there until 2001, when he was named CEO at Ameritrade.
His success was astounding - Ameritrade rose to a market capitalization of $12 billion by 2008. But it didn't mean the man who some people at the company fondly called "Coach" could escape the feeling that the most satisfying times of his career occurred as a coach.
Oh, there had been possibilities of a career change again. While at Ameritrade, Moglia was a candidate for the chief operating officer's position on the U.S. Olympic Committee and he says he was contacted about the NFL commissioner's position which wound up going to Roger Goodell. It was only after some Yale alumni contacted him in 2008 about the head coaching position that would open following the season that Moglia decided to act on what he had been thinking about for some time.
"It's the strategic part of the game I've always enjoyed intellectually," he said. "But the part of the game that has always meant the most of me is the effect you have on your players and the people around you. So at this point of my life, I thought, what would I be best at and what do I think would give me the greatest satisfaction. And, frankly, the decision was going back to football."
After stepping down as CEO at TD Ameritrade, Moglia remained as its chairman of the board, with his successor taking over the responsibility of running the company.
The University of Nebraska's storied program in Lincoln is located only about an hour's drive from TD Ameritrade headquarters in Omaha, so Moglia held a meeting in 2009 with Cornhuskers athletic director and legendary former coach Tom Osborne to discuss getting back into coaching.
Osborne, and later head coach Bo Pelini, took a liking to Moglia. He was invited into the Nebraska program in a volunteer role, although it didn't hurt that he made a financial donation to the Cornhuskers' athletic department.
He wound up paying more dues in the form of a 4,000-hour externship with the Cornhuskers over the 2009 and '10 seasons. His title was "life skills consultant," as what he taught student-athletes off the field was as important as what he could teach on it.
Moglia then returned to the payroll as a coach. He was hired to be the head coach of the UFL's Virginia Destroyers in November 2010, but left two months later to become the head coach and president of another team in the league, the Omaha Nighthawks, who finished 1-4 last year while playing home games at, conveniently enough, TD Ameritrade Park Omaha.
Few foresaw a coaching change brewing at Coastal Carolina, with the charismatic Bennett having gone 63-39 in his nine seasons, including 7-4 last year. He led the Chanticleers to FCS playoff appearances in 2006 and '10.
But Coastal Carolina administrators pulled the trigger on a change and saw enough in Moglia to make the controversial hire.
April Fool's? No, it was real for the Chanticleers.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Considering Moglia's background, the detractors won't go away until he proves he can lead Coastal Carolina to a successful season. This year's Chanticleers schedule is particularly tough in the first half, including games against 2011 playoffs qualifiers Eastern Kentucky, Appalachian State and Stony Brook (the Big South champion), as well as a visit to FBS program Toledo.
Spring practices begin March 22 and Moglia will go right to work, implementing his systems in a pivotal period for the Chanticleers.
"Every time we look at one side of the ball, I think of myself as a coordinator on the opposite side of the ball," he said. "So therefore, what puts the most pressure on the other coordinator?"
Offensively, the returning starters include dual-threat quarterback Aramis Hillary, hulking left tackle Jamey Cheatwood, leading receiver Matt Hazel and tight end David Duran, who recently was granted a sixth season of eligibility by the NCAA after he missed two seasons due to injuries, as well as leading rusher Travis Small.
The Chanticleers will utilize an up-tempo spread offense that attacks the perimeter of a defense, although Moglia plans to increase their north-south running as well. Above all, they will always focus on adjusting to a defense's alignment.
Defensively, their veteran unit will keep last year's 4-2-5 base alignment, although their secondary has lost NFL prospect Josh Norman at cornerback. They will attack the opposition and disguise coverages. Thomas returns alongside such standout leaders as linebacker Andrae Jacobs and defensive backs Johnnie Houston and Marcus Lott.
"Everybody's position is on the line, to be honest," Thomas said. "Nobody should feel confident that they're going to play next year because at the end of the day everybody is still competing for the spot. The best kids on the team are going to play."
Amid the X's and O's, Moglia remains the chairman at TD Ameritrade. But he says his role has dwindled to attending four meetings a year, including a recent shareholders' meeting, and having occasional phone calls with the CEO.
Everybody is understanding that Moglia's new job, and first love, is coaching.
He says he cherishes the commitment to his student-athletes and the families which have entrusted him with their sons at Coastal Carolina.
Re-energized, it's not something he would (Ameri)trade for the world.
"I feel pretty good about the foundation that we're laying as far as our program goes," Moglia said. "If someone just kind of watched or observed, frankly, they wouldn't even be aware of that I've been out of football at all."