By a show of hands, who believed Coastal Carolina University would climb to the top of the college football world less than 3 years after the controversial hiring of Joe Moglia as head coach?
You, in the back, put your hand down — because you’re lying.
No one knew CCU would reach 10-0 and be ranked No. 1 in the nation for the first time in its history, two events that unfolded over the course of three days, from Saturday’s win over Charlotte to Monday’s release of the rankings. (CCU is No. 2 in another poll.)
The only person I’d be inclined to believe is CCU President David DeCenzo, who took heat for the unconventional hiring of a man then better known to CNBC than ESPN.
DeCenzo strongly suggested he did it to be great, not just good most of the time and very good some of the time, which was the state of the program in 2011.
Moglia’s Wall Street experience far outpaced his sideline work, though he wasn’t new to football, having just finished studying the game at Nebraska, a program built by legendary former coach Tom Osborne, as well as coaching in a fledgling professional league.
The scuttlebutt was that CCU would attract a known commodity with a big name, such as Steve Spurrier’s son.
When that didn’t happen, and because outgoing coach David Bennett had built a successful program on the field and was beloved off it, fans did what fans frequently do, over-react in nasty, ugly ways, attacking DeCenzo’s character and making his family’s life a living hell.
Being caught off guard that the guy who headed TD AmeriTrade was chosen to lead a promising football team in the football-loving South was to be expected.
But the over-reaction by some (not all) fans was wrong-headed. They had gotten so invested in a product they convinced themselves their judgment was best — even though they had little real knowledge of what a football program, or university, needs.
I was interested in the stark contrast between Moglia, a fast-talking city-wise character who seemed to walk straight out of a casting call for any number of New York-based TV shows, and the down home Southern homebody that was Bennett.
That Bennett was able to put together a solid program his way, and Moglia has taken it to another level with a different style, speaks volumes about the power of diversity.
Excellence doesn’t come in a one-size-fits-all package. CCU fans have a front row seat to see just what that means in the real world.
And they have that opportunity because DeCenzo, who saw something in Moglia long before the coach began winning awards and setting new records on the football field, long before the rest of us.
I didn’t know what would happen but did say Moglia had to do more than just get to the playoffs, or beat the No. 1 team in the country during the regular season, or win conference championships, or send players to the National Football League and be a good spokesman in the community for the university, all things Bennett had accomplished.
Moglia has. He hasn’t just beaten the top team, he leads the nation’s top team. He hasn’t just gotten to the playoffs, he took the team on its deepest run ever last season, only losing to the eventual champion.
That’s why expectations for this year are so high — even though CCU still has to play a dangerous Liberty team before the playoffs begin.
They’ve been raised so high I have new questions for Moglia and DeCenzo about off the field issues, such as if they are learning from the academic mistakes of higher-profile places, like those discovered at places like the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
But I’ll save those for later, after the season, hopefully after a deeper run through the playoffs.
In the meantime, maybe DeCenzo will engage in a little gloating.
Hasn’t he earned it?