CONWAY, S.C. — Coastal Carolina was already prepping for a huge step forward this season with its move from the FCS to the Football Bowl Subdivision’s Sun Belt Conference. Then came another jolt to the Chants when coach Joe Moglia stepped away this fall to handle a medical issue.
“At first it was hard to get our minds around,” senior linebacker Shane Johnson said. “But life goes on and we’ve just got to keep pushing. He wouldn’t want us to mope around with our heads down, he’d want us to work.”
Moglia told the team about his condition: He’s got a bronchial asthmatic reaction to allergies, which causes inflammation around his lungs. The inflammation restricts the lungs, which could create a serious breathing problem. Doctors told him the best course would be an immediate sabbatical. No football games, practices or preparation.
“I recognize most coaches wouldn’t make this decision, but I’m not like most coaches,” said Moglia, the 68-year-old former CEO of TD Ameritrade. “And I very much believe I am making a smart long-term decision in exchange for a near-term sacrifice.”
Moglia promoted Jamey Chadwell, his new offensive coordinator , as interim coach. Chadwell came to the Chants after four seasons at Charleston Southern, Coastal’s bitter, Big South Conference rival who eventually supplanted the Chants as league champions in 2015.
“Some of the guys, for lack of a better word, felt betrayed a little bit,” Johnson said when Chadwell was hired in January. “It’s still a business at the end of the day.”
Chadwell understood the awkwardness, amazed that he was standing in front of Coastal Carolina players he has spent years scheming to take down as Charleston Southern’s coach. “I felt like I was naked standing up there talking to them,” Chadwell said of the uncomfortable first meeting.
To Moglia, the hire was simply good business practice that happens every day on Wall Street — if someone’s making money for your competitor, you hire that person to make money for you.
Chadwell had some time through spring practice and offseason workouts to talk with his offensive players and communicate his vision for Coastal’s versatile attack going forward. Once Moglia took a break, Chadwell had to get the defense on board.
“That’s the thing I’ve been concentrating on, making sure they get used to this new voice they’re hearing out there,” Chadwell said.
Coastal Carolina is relatively new to college football, its team starting in 2003. The Chants gradually grew into a FCS powerhouse, winning seven Big South titles between 2004-14. Moglia led the team to the NCAA playoff quarterfinals in 2013 and 2014, losing to eventual champion North Dakota State both times.
Chadwell has seen a strong sense of focus at practice this summer. If the Chants are worried about going up against Sun Belt heavyweights like Appalachian State or Troy, the interim coach has not seen it.
“We follow behind our leader,” said Johnson, who was second on the team a year ago with 66 tackles.
Chadwell said Moglia will be around, but told him the football decisions belong to the interim coach. Moglia plans to spend his time off the football field getting healthy for his planned return next season.
Receiver Chris Jones said on the field, the Chants are all business in building for its first game as a Sun Belt member against UMass at home on Sept. 2. Its first conference game takes place Sept. 30 at Louisiana-Monroe.
“Mentally, some things you can control and other things you can’t,” Jones said. “Moglia’s health problems are something he has to handle himself and I feel we’ll all do right by him.”