Joe Moglia’s oceanfront condominium in Myrtle Beach has a decidedly teal, gold and white flare.
Among the mementos of his six years as the head football coach at Coastal Carolina University are a collage depicting Moglia and the Be A Man (BAM) philosophy he has instilled in the program, and his 2015 Eddie Robinson FCS National Coach of the Year Award.
He plans to keep adding to the Chanticleer-themed décor, as well.
Moglia fully intends to return to lead the football program he directed to the Football Championship Subdivision No. 1 national ranking for 10 weeks in 2014-15 and the move up to the Football Bowl Subdivision this season.
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But the 68-year-old has until the end of the year to make a decision, and plans to use all of his allotted time before announcing his future plans.
Moglia was granted a five-month medical sabbatical by Coastal Carolina president David DeCenzo on the eve of the team’s first preseason practice in late July, and the break has served its purpose.
Moglia has decreased his workload and stress over the past four months while increasing his dedication to relaxation and his health, and that has allowed doctors to diagnose and treat a medical condition that was causing inflammation and damage to his lungs.
He believes he’ll announce after Christmas that he is returning to his full-time university positions of head football coach, executive director of football operations and chairman of the athletics department.
“I’m feeling good. I certainly feel better today than I did six months ago,” Moglia said. “I’m optimistic everything is systems go and we’ll be good.”
Moglia said he plans to come back in full force or not at all. “If I’m coming back, then I’m coming back,” he said.
The medical leave hasn’t been a clean break from the football team. Moglia is still heavily involved in several aspects of the program, though he isn’t at practices, isn’t on the sidelines at home games, doesn’t attend away games and leaves game-planning to his coaching staff led by interim head coach Jamey Chadwell, aside from his suggestions.
The break has been difficult. “When I’m near the guys, I always get emotional with that,” Moglia said. “That’s very difficult for me. But when I’m not here I’ve got other things that I need to do that I’m going to focus on that I’m paying attention to, so I’m not just sitting there wallowing away in the football.”
A contract extension that goes through the 2020 season was finalized in September with Moglia, the former TD Ameritrade CEO who is still the successful online brokerage firm’s chairman of the board, and his importance to the program goes deeper than his 51-15 record through his first five seasons.
“Coach Moglia has been the face of CCU football and his BAM philosophy had been the cornerstone of our success the past six seasons,” DeCenzo said. “Coach Moglia brought national exposure to our program. Clearly without Joe’s phenomenal leadership, our move to FBS football would not have been possible. We look forward to his return and wish him the best of health.”
Moglia detailed the illness that required his medical leave.
He said he had an infection over about three years that was causing inflammation around his lungs, and his sinus drainage would pool around his trachea because of the inflammation.
When he had the infection his phlegm became dark green and was frequently present. Moglia said any phlegm now is lighter and more common and isn’t as prevalent. “So I can definitely feel and see the difference,” he said.
Moglia said his doctors were unable to identify the cause of the infection. They discovered in July that the antibiotics he was taking to combat the infection were “creating an environment that was a good environment for yeast to thrive, and the yeast then became mold,” Moglia said. “I’m allergic to normal allergens on the outside, I have been all my life. Mold would be part of that. Then after three years of trying to figure out what it was, we then realized I have mold growing inside my body.”
The sabbatical has allowed doctors to get to the root of the problem.
“Once the doctors realized what it was they were able to treat it, and they feel very, very good that they’ve got it, they’ve got it taken care of,” Moglia said. “They just want to keep an eye on it now for the next several weeks to make sure it’s totally gone.
“Once it’s totally gone, which we’re all optimistic that’s the case, then even if it were to come back, if we get it right away at the beginning it’s no big deal. But the key was to stop it, and now as long as we’ve got it stopped we’re good and everybody is optimistic that it’s good and I’m 100 percent ready.”
The condition didn’t really hamper Moglia physically, but the inflammation was damaging his lungs and they don’t regenerate, so it was causing permanent damage. Before more lung capacity was affected, Moglia wanted to solve the problem.
“If that continued another three years … that’s when I would have significant pulmonary problems and that was the whole objective to try to make sure we avoided that,” Moglia said. “I made what I think is a smart decision that’s going to have a positive impact on my health for the next 20 years.
“The price I had to pay was I had to give up these few months.”
He said the most difficult part of the entire process was telling the players at the end of the team meeting on the eve of the first practice that he was taking the leave.
“I said, ‘There’s something I want to share with you, I’m not going to be with you this season,’ ” Moglia said. “That was hard for me to get out. That was hard for me to recover from.
“The difficult part of this was emotionally. Emotionally this was actually an impossible decision. But I have taught my children, I teach my players, I teach my coaching staff, in the business world, you never make an important decision emotionally. You make an important decision intellectually. Emotionally this would have been impossible to make. Intellectually this could not have been clearer.”
Moglia said his mastery of compartmentalizing, which he believes is a competitive advantage in sports and business, has allowed him to get through the past four months emotionally. He turns his attention to something else and focuses on that through completion.
He generally works out about six days a week, which involves online cycle classes on a Peloton indoor exercise bike in his condo, weight lifting at his condo gym, and hard walks or jogs on the beach that every couple hundred yards evolve into individual exercises like push-ups, sit-ups, planks and body squats. He’s also counting calories daily to manage his meals and plans to continue that.
The sabbatical has allowed him to pay more attention to TD Ameritrade. The company’s $4 billion acquisition of Scottrade was recently completed and Moglia said the company is initiating some new strategies. He has traveled to the company headquarters in Omaha, Neb., multiple times to be personally involved.
“I can pay a little bit more attention to it now, and frankly I’m quite experienced at that and I’m good at that and I think about that a little bit differently, no different than I approach football a little bit differently,” Moglia said. “I enjoy the markets and I enjoy managing money. But that takes you a little time and I’m spending more time doing that, managing my own stuff and some of the assets of my loved ones.”
He has reworked his living will and estate plan.
Moglia has four children and two stepchildren that he raised, as well as nine grandchildren, and has spent more time traveling to New York to visit three children and Dallas to visit his two stepsons. One child lives in Murrells Inlet. He has added a few speaking engagements, as well.
All the while he has remained involved in the program.
He watches the games on Saturday, and on Sundays he reviews game film, receives notes from his assistant coaches and gives feedback.
“They’ve had total discretion to do what they think they need to do from a football perspective from the very beginning,” Moglia said. “I do have comments though, especially if I think we’re not as disciplined as we should be with regard to too many penalties, or the other thing that drives me crazy is we have too many repeat mistakes. We’re not supposed to have those things, and there are things we could probably have done a better job with.”
He’s still heavily involved in the recruiting process, though he hasn’t visited any recruits in their hometowns. He contacts them and meets with recruits on their visits to campus for home games, and meets with some recruits and families privately.
Moglia spends home games in the press box taking copious notes and hasn’t attended a practice. “I think it would be hard for me to do that plus I don’t want the guys to think I’m looking over their shoulder,” Moglia said.
He’ll watch one game film of the upcoming opponent and have a discussion about the opponent with coaches.
“His philosophy and the way we’re running our program, the way we recruit, all of those things, he’s still heavily involved in that,” Chadwell said. “He’s not here on a day to day basis but everything he laid down we’re trying to do.
“Obviously any decisions that deal with the program we run through him.”
If five years from now I think I’ve got another year or two, then I’ve got another year or two. But pragmatically I’m never going to be one of those guys that are hanging on the rest of my life. … As long as I really feel I’m productive and I know what I’m doing and I feel good about the way we do things differently from others, I feel good about my ability to be able to influence things that way.
CCU head football coach Joe Moglia
The team requested Moglia give a couple Life After Football talks that are a staple of the program on Thursdays, so he discussed the North Korea threat and protests in Charlottesville, Va. He also gave the team one update on his health.
“Every time I walk into that team room, it’s hard for me to get to the front of the room without having broken down, so those are the tough times,” Moglia said.
Moglia has also been getting more sleep and rest.
“I’ve been busy, but with not nearly the intensity our staff is typically under during the season,” Moglia said. “Our guys are working 80 hours a week, they’re traveling all over the place to away games, there’s an awful lot they have to do and a lot of stress getting ready for a game, and you have game day itself. I’m not putting in those hours.
“There’s nothing that I’m doing now that is nearly as intense as what I would be doing if I were involved with the team this season.”
If Moglia returns, he expects to at least fulfill the term of his new contract through the 2020 season.
“I think realistically I will coach as long as I think I’m really good at it and I really am totally passionate about it,” Moglia said. “The day that I challenge either one of those things, I won’t just turn around and leave, but that would be my last season.
“I’m not going to coach forever, but … I could definitely coach for another four or five years. But I don’t have to figure that out now.”
Would he consider coaching somewhere else?
“To me Coastal Carolina is a special spot. I think when I step down from coaching I’m pretty sure it’s going to be from Coastal Carolina,” Moglia said. “But having said that . . . if somebody believed in me enough that they wanted me to run their program and I thought I could compete for a BCS National Championship or I thought I could compete for a Super Bowl, I would have to seriously, seriously consider that.
“But I’ve said that every year for the last few years, and either somebody really believes in me or they don’t.”
Coastal’s lack of success on the field, at 2-9 entering Saturday’s season finale against Georgia Southern, has made the leave more difficult.
“A big part of our learning process is compounding,” Moglia said. “You have something, you teach it right, you’ve got it right and build on that. Well if you don’t have it right you’re building on mush. You can’t do that. If you’re making mistakes and you’re not fixing those mistakes you’ve got negative compounding.
“This power of compounding is a huge competitive advantage for us, but you’ve got to be able to get it right. I think we drifted away a little bit from that, and that’s our responsibility as a coaching staff. That to me makes it more painful because these are still my coaches, these are still my players, and we’re doing things that I know we can be doing a better job of.”
Moglia believes Coastal can make a quick turnaround and be successful at the FBS level, and he hopes to be the person overseeing that improvement.
“I feel excited knowing we have some problems we can fix,” Moglia said. “I know we’ve got a young team. I know we’re well behind the other teams in the league with regards to scholarships and we’re going to be making up for that in the next year or two. Our quarterback problems will be solved as we go forward with regard to depth and experience, etc., so I feel really, really good as I look down the road and I’m excited about that.”