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Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)
CONWAY - After spending nearly three decades in the world of high finance, Coastal Carolina football coach Joe Moglia approaches just about every new challenge from the perspective of a chief executive officer.
When Moglia was hired at Coastal Carolina in 2011, he heard rumors that the school's administration and boosters were interested in moving the program from the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) to the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).
The Chanticleers, who fielded their first football team in 2003, became an elite program at the FCS level competing in the Big South Conference alongside teams like Charleston Southern, which several months ago saw its head coach Jamey Chadwell and recruiting coordinator Willy Korn leave to join Moglia's staff.
Moglia, who previously served as CEO of TD Ameritrade - one of the world's largest discount brokerage firms - at first was lukewarm to the idea of moving up to FBS. His concerns were based on the business principle of supply and demand.
"I've always felt like the market will tell you when it's time to move on or in this case move up to FBS," said Moglia, whose team will wrap up spring practice on April 8 with its spring game. "To me, if we had standing-room-only crowds for two or three years and a huge demand for tickets, then that's an obvious time for us to raise our hands and say this is something that we'd like to do."
Over the past three years, the Chanticleers drew near sellout crowds to Brooks Stadium, the on-campus facility that seats about 9,000. Still, the school was well shy of the 15,000 minimum attendance requirement set by the NCAA for FCS teams. From 2014-16, Coastal Carolina averaged 8,647 fans per home game.
But when the Sun Belt Conference approached Coastal Carolina in 2014 about joining its league, it was an opportunity the school couldn't pass up, Moglia said.
"I think it was always something that the board thought about," Moglia said. "When I got here, I'll admit I thought about it, too, but I wasn't sure the time was right. When we made the move, it was the Sun Belt that approached us about the opportunity of joining the league and I felt, the board felt, the president felt, like we couldn't pass on it."
The Chanticleers officially joined the Sun Belt last summer in all sports except football. After spending last year in football limbo, playing an independent schedule that featured both FCS and FBS opponents - Coastal Carolina will make its FBS debut on Sept. 2 against the University of Massachusetts at Brooks Stadium.
The two-year transition from FCS to FBS has not been without growing pains, but Moglia is confident the program is ready to make the jump to the highest level of collegiate football.
"We wouldn't be making this move if we didn't think we could be competitive," he said.
The Bottom Line
Fielding a collegiate football program at any level is an expensive endeavor. The costs associated with scholarships for players, coaching salaries, traveling, recruiting, along with building and maintaining facilities are enormous.
Despite having a program already in place, Coastal Carolina is finding out the jump from FCS to FBS won't be cheap.
At the FCS level, schools can offer as many as 63 full-scholarships, but the coach has the discretion to give partial scholarships in order to have more players on the team.
That number jumps to 85 scholarships at the FBS level and all of those have to be full scholarships. The average cost of attendance at Coastal Carolina is $22,500 for in-state students and about $36,000 for out-of-state students.
Conservatively, the additional 22 scholarships will run nearly $650,000 more per season for the Chanticleers. Moglia views the added costs as a good long-term investment in the program.
"It's the cost of doing business," he said.
Along with the increase in scholarships, the school will also pour $32 million into Brooks Stadium to bring it up to the minimum attendance requirement for FBS. The school broke ground on the two-part stadium expansion last week.
The initial phase of the expansion, which will be completed by the season opener against UMass, will increase the capacity to about 15,000. The project will include adding seats to both corners of the end zone nearest the field house, expanding the sections closest to the field on both sides toward the scoreboard and expanding the upper deck on the east side (press box side) to match the length on the lower deck.
The second phase will give Brooks Stadium a capacity of at least 20,000 and includes adding luxury suites and an upper deck to the west side as well as additional features such as new entrances.
Getting the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education to sign off on the expansion wasn't easy for the school's administration. The commission, which regulates capital construction at state universities, rejected the school's first plan, which would have cost $38 million and boosted the capacity to 21,000.
The school finally got approval for the plan and reduced the price tag to the current $32 million figure.
The costs associated with traveling in the Sun Belt - a league that stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the plains of Texas and into the foothills in Idaho - will be significantly more than when Coastal played in the Big South, where most road games involved relatively short bus rides.
When the decision was made to join the Sun Belt Conference, Moglia and his coaching staff immediately hit the recruiting trail looking for players that could compete at a higher level.
Moglia said it'll take a couple of years for the Chanticleers to reach the 85-scholarship limit. This year, he figures the team will field about 72 scholarship players.
"Where will be at a disadvantage is that the NCAA doesn't allow you just to get to 85 scholarship players in one season. As you lose kids from graduation or by attrition, you can only bring in 25 players in each recruiting class," Moglia said. "So, right now, we'll probably have 71 or 72 scholarship players next year. I don't want to max out on the 85 number just to have 85 scholarship kids unless they are the kids we want in our program. It's up to us to catch up."
While the type of player Coastal Carolina is recruiting has changed, Moglia said his style of recruiting has not. His recruiting pitch still involves his philosophy of B.A.M. (Be A Man) and L.A.F. (Life After Football). The two programs emphasize personal responsibility and a player's life after his career is over.
"We try to look at what advantages we have over other schools and other programs and B.A.M and Life After Football give us an advantage," Moglia said. "We're the only football program that takes 30 minutes out of our practice schedule to focus on personal responsibility and giving our players the tools to succeed after they finish playing football."
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