CONWAY — Joe Moglia does not seem to be one for effusive outward emotion, at least not in the public image he portrays as Coastal Carolina University’s new football coach.
Perhaps that’s because of his years in the bottom-line world of Wall Street and high-profile business. Or maybe it’s just a grounded sense of the big picture.
He can be funny and engaging in his media dealings, certainly, and he’s good for a soundbite. But he hasn’t let his guard down much – not in regard to the vocal detractors who questioned his hiring in December, nor in response to the team’s impressive 2-0 start to his first season as a collegiate head coach.
Moglia doesn’t have to be the one to say it, though – with two encouraging performances, a strong crowd response for the season opener and indications of another large turnout Saturday night as the team hosts No. 20-ranked Eastern Kentucky, the start to this new era of Chanticleer football has gone about as well as could be expected.
“I think if we could have scripted how the season was going to start both from an atmosphere standpoint, an attendance standpoint and a results standpoint on the field, I think it’s worked out exactly as we would have hoped,” CCU athletic director Hunter Yurachek said.
After announcing an attendance of 9,314 for the opening home game two weekends ago – buoyed by a stronger student turnout than was seen at Brooks Stadium all of last season – Coastal officials said Friday afternoon that about 8,500 tickets had been sold for the Family Weekend game Saturday.
With a little momentum after securing a three-overtime win on the road at Furman last week and the chance to now host a ranked team, the Chants would seem to have an opportunity this weekend to start gaining some recognition nationally.
Moglia is the first to say, though, that it’s still early. Early in the season, early in his tenure and early in the process of remolding Coastal Carolina football.
“I think it’s certainly gone well as far as the record goes because we’ve played two games and won two games, but I think I am realistic enough to know that it really does take a while with a new staff, a new team, a new offense, a new defense, a new kicking system, a new philosophy,” he said. “It genuinely takes a while. And we’re making good progress. There’s still a piece of me that gets a little impatient, feels a little sense of urgency and I still wish we were a couple weeks further along.”
CCU President David DeCenzo, who made the bold and heavily scrutinized move to replace longtime Chants head coach David Bennett and hire Moglia, also said through a spokesperson that it’s too soon to make any comments about the team’s results and declined to be interviewed this week.
So far, so good, though.
“I think the excitement definitively is starting to build,” Yurachek said. “Everybody talked about how difficult our schedule was coming into the season, and it is, but it really gives us a barometer, kind of a measuring stick as to where we are as a program against programs that have established themselves in the Football Championship Subdivision as quality teams. ... It really gives us a true barometer of where we are as a program this year as we try to build what those schools have each built on their campuses.”
Furman is still in a transition of its own under a second-year head coach, but the Paladins do boast a tradition of success with a record 12 Southern Conference championships and a 1988 NCAA FCS national championship. As does this week’s opponent, Eastern Kentucky, which has won 21 Ohio Valley Conference championships and two national championships (1979 and 1982). With perennial FCS power Appalachian State also on the schedule, the Chants will no doubt have their chances to make a mark on the field this fall.
The hope for CCU officials is that the program continues to make a mark in the stands as well after being disappointed with the attendance at games in recent years. Yurachek noted that season-ticket sales are up a bit from last year at just under 2,500, and he was pleased with the feedback he received after the opener.
“We received a lot of comments in my inbox Sunday and Monday following the first game just about the overall atmosphere and the excitement of the program [being] better than they can remember it in their 10 years of following Coastal Carolina football,” he said. “And it was very exciting to hear that piece because I know there was some excitement early on when Coach Bennett really had this program rolling in year four and five of his tenure, and they were having some big wins over nationally-ranked opponents at the time.”
That’s the goal again. Yurachek notes that the meeting with Eastern Kentucky this week is far from a make-of-break game on the schedule. But if the Chants could pull the upset, well, it “really changes the entire complexion of your season,” he added.
Moglia, for his part, has been even keeled as ever this week, stating several times he’s not caught up in the notion of playing a ranked team or what that would mean for the season, etc.
It’s just the next game, the next challenge, the next step in this process.
Yurachek said, though, that in more private moments, Moglia has shown a bit of emotion toward the way the team has responded thus far, noting a candid scene in the locker room after the season-opening win over North Carolina A&T in which the players gathered around the coach and started rubbing his head in acknowledgement of his first win.
“You started to see his eyes well up a little bit with some water and started to get teary,” Yurachek said. “I think that was a very proud moment for him. I think he’s an unbelievably passionate person, but I think he’s been through so much in the business world that I think he has a [steady] demeanor. ... I think he’s very good at managing his emotions, especially publically.”
Indeed, it’s all business for these Chants as they look to make another statement under their new head coach this week, and that’s where the focus remains.
“There’s a lot of excitement around campus,” junior receiver Niccolo Mastromatteo said. “And if we keep doing our part, hopefully that will keep continuing to grow.”
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318.