Coastal Carolina, led by Moglia, rise to No. 1

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Coastal Carolina coach Joe Moglia made reaching the top a habit, whether in the boardroom or on the sidelines.

The one-time CEO of TD Ameritrade is excelling in his return to college football, leading the undefeated Chanticleers to No. 1 in the Football Championship Subdivision coaches' national rankings. It's the latest run of success for Moglia, who increased the stock value of his company from $700 million to more than $10 billion from 2001 to 2008 at TD Ameritrade.

The Chants (10-0) are yielding similar dividends in Moglia's three seasons, winning two Big South Conference titles and making the NCAA playoffs both years. They join Harvard of the Ivy League (8-0) as the two perfect teams in the FCS.

Moglia was a college coach in the 1970s and 1980s before moving to the business track. After nearly two decades at the top of Wall Street, Moglia felt it was time to get back to football and see if those dreams deferred could become a reality.

Moglia found many of his business skills could transfer to the field.

''You've got to be sophisticated enough in the business world to be competitive on the global basis, but simple enough for all your employees to be able to execute,'' Moglia said. ''That is the exact same thing in football. You've got to be sophisticated enough to have the different type of answers you need to compete and simple enough for your guys to execute.''

The philosophy has worked for Coastal Carolina. It's the first Big South team to win that many games to start a season and the first to rise to a No. 1 ranking. The Chants are No. 2 behind New Hampshire in a FCS poll compiled from media voting.

After deciding to give football another try, Moglia had an apprenticeship at Nebraska as special assistant to Cornhuskers coach Bo Pelini in 2009 and 2010. He coached the United Football League's Omaha Nighthawks the next season before Moglia was hired at Coastal Carolina after the 2011 season. Quarterback Alex Ross recalled some chatter among players wondering whether the new guy with the high-finance background had football chops.

''He talked like a football coach and when we left, that's what we saw him as,'' said Ross, the league's preseason offensive player of the year who's thrown for 2,595 yards and 15 touchdowns. ''That hasn't changed.''

What did change is the players' belief in how much they can accomplish, Moglia said. His tenure had a bumpy start opening at 2-4 in 2012, but Coastal Carolina reeled off five straight wins to take the Big South crown and won a FCS playoff game.

''You could see a significant change'' midway through the first season, Moglia said. ''The guys fully embraced our philosophy and the way we do things.''

Throw out that rough start and the Chants have gone 28-5 under Moglia. They advanced to the FCS quarterfinals last year before losing at North Dakota State, which has won the past three subdivision national championships.

Linebacker Quinn Backus, the two-time defending conference defensive player of the year, said that defeat drove the Chanticleers throughout the offseason. While they don't discuss a national championship often, they know the goal is out there.

''We think we're good enough to play with anyone,'' he said.

Backus said there was a buzz on the team bus Nov. 8 after a 59-34 win at Charlotte, while previous No. 1 North Dakota State was trailing and would eventually lose to Northern Iowa 23-3. ''Hey,'' Backus remembered sharing with teammates, ''Maybe we'll be number one.''

Moglia texted his players, congratulating them on the ranking after it was announced. He sent a letter to the families of players, thanking them for their commitment and support. But the celebration didn't last long as Moglia snapped the team's attention back to this week's opponent Monmouth. The Chants end the regular-season Nov. 22 against Liberty before prepping for a deeper playoff run.

Moglia credits his assistants and players for their focus on what's next instead of what's already been done. Then again, it comes from another tenet Moglia learned in the boardroom.

''Frankly, the most important decisions you really make are going to be about people,'' he said. ''That's true in the business world and that's true in the world of sports.''

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.