Coastal Carolina had a very up and down, and in some ways strange, 2011-2012 sports year. It started with what was at the time considered a big win over Furman in football – a win which turned out to be not such a big deal by season’s end. The team ended up 7-4, but with blowout losses to Liberty and Stony Brook on the road, and an embarrassingly unexpected loss to Homecoming opponent Gardner-Webb. Of course, we now know that these losses brought about the sudden firing of David Bennett – the only coach Coastal had ever known.
The firing of Coach Bennett sent shock waves through Conway and beyond. Tyler Thigpen was so upset, he asked that his banner be removed and said he would never donate another cent to the university. “As of today, Coastal Carolina no longer has an NFL quarterback as a booster, fan or alumnus.” I’m sure we’ve all read his letter by now. Jerome Simpson took a pic of his Coastal jersey in the trash and posted it on Twitter. The atmosphere surrounding the university was intense. Coastal Carolina had just fired its’ first and only head football coach. Some were pleased, others wanted AD Hunter Yurachek and President DeCenzo’s heads on a platter. Personally, I thought the firing was unnecessary and ill-conceived. My take on it was and still is, “If this doesn’t work, everyone involved with this decision will be out of a job.” Of course, learning that Bennett was fired was not nearly as shocking as finding out who would replace the longtime head coach.
When Joe Moglia was announced as our new head coach, I know everyone had the same response – “Who the heck is Joe Moglia?” We would soon find out that Moglia was a former assistant coach for Lafayette college and won two Ivy League titles as a Defensive Coordinator in the early 1980s. After that, he left football to succeed in the business world and became the chairman of TD Ameritrade. Then, in 2009, he got the football itch again and signed up to be an executive adviser to head coach Bo Pelini at Nebraska. He stayed at Nebraska for two years until a United Football League team called the Omaha Nighthawks offered to make him their head coach. Now, one year later, he is our head coach. I’m still not sure what to think about this move. However, if Coastal comes out, plays well, and gets back to the top of the Big South soon – everyone will be saying, “David who?”
Not only does Coastal have a football team – we also have a futbol team, and a darn good one at that. Coastal Carolina soccer went 18-4, led the nation in goals scored, and finished the season ranked 16th. Ashton Bennett was an absolute star, leading the nation in goals on the season – and he is coming back for his senior season. There’s also the fact we won a NCAA Tournament game before losing 3-2 to the eventual national champion UNC Tarheels, after the refs missed a obvious handball that allowed UNC to score the third goal of that game. If the refs get that call right…who knows how far we might have gone? However, we have plenty to look forward to this season on the soccer field. Coastal starts off the season ranked #10 and plays #1 UNC on Sunday August 19th in what is billed has an exhibition. Somehow, I doubt either team will see it that way.
Coastal Basketball started the year on a high note, but was unable to finish that way. Coastal began the season with huge upsets of LSU and Clemson. The win at Clemson was especially exciting, with Chris Gradnigo tipping in the game winner as time expired. It looked like this would finally be the year we went back to the dance, but Coastal faded down the stretch, losing seven of the last nine. Losing in the first round of the Big South Tourney by 17 to VMI was probably the hardest pill to swallow. Coastal did play well in the CIT against Old Dominion, but were defeated 68-66 in the first round.
Baseball and softball both had good seasons. The baseball team won yet another Big South title, making it 6 straight for the Chanticleers. Coastal was selected for the Columbia regional where they were matched-up with Clemson. Clemson defeated them in the first game, then again after Coastal beat Manhattan, to eliminate the Chanticleers. CCU baseball finished the season 42-19. The softball team had an outstanding year as well, going 44-20 and bringing home a Big South title of their own. They were selected for the Athens regional, where they fell to Georgia and UNC while defeating Georgia Southern. It was a successful year on the diamond for Coastal, but we are still waiting for our first College World Series birth in school history.
It seems all of our teams had good seasons, but none of them had great ones, even though most were just a play or a win or two away from having a breakthrough year. Football season is starting in two weeks, and I’m dreaming of playoffs for the Chanticleers. Hopefully my dreams and maybe more will come true.