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Coastal Carolina Searching for Its Second Head Football Coach

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For the first time in its still brief football history, Coastal Carolina University is without a football coach.

The university announced Dec. 9 that it had immediately relieved David Bennett – the school’s first football coach – of his head coaching duties and reassigned him within the university.

In announcing the decision, CCU President David DeCenzo noted the drop in the program’s record over the last five years as well as slippage in attendance. DeCenzo was clear regarding expectations for the football program.

His statement included the following: “It is true that we had a winning record this season but the record shows that the competitive stature of our program has diminished significantly against peer FCS opponents. Our expenditures in football, quite frankly are not resulting in a return on our investment. Of the 125 FCS schools, our spending on football operations is easily in the top 20. With that investment, we expect to annually place in the top 20 programs, with sights set on competing consistently for the FCS playoffs and national championships. That is simply not happening.”

Bennett came to CCU in 2002 to ready the program that began playing football in 2003. They met with immediate success, not having a losing season until 2007. His teams won four Big South titles and went to the playoffs twice (until this season, the only Big South team to do so). He finished with a nine-year mark of 63-39 at the helm. Three of his former players are currently on NFL rosters.

The last five seasons haven’t been as successful despite winning a co-championship in 2010 and the league’s first automatic qualifier. The Chanticleers were either 5-6 or 6-6 from 2007 through 2010 before finishing 7-4 this season.

At least part of the reason for the downturn were the additions of Danny Rocco as Liberty’s head coach (he just left to go to Richmond) and of Stony Brook to the league’s football teams. Bennett was 4-5 against Liberty but just 2-4 head-to-head with Rocco, including losses of 45 points in 2009 and 36 in 2011. He lost all four games to Stony Brook, falling by 42 points this year. So, since 2006, the Chanticleers were 2-8 against those two teams and 17-4 against everyone else in the Big South. Bennett finished with a winning record against all of the other league teams.

Bennett has shown an ability to coach and always appeared to be strongly interested in the development of the players in his program. It will be interesting to see if he gets another shot at a head-coaching job.

As for the second coach in CCU’s history, he will have a significant challenge meeting the expectation of regular spots in the top 20 FCS programs. For the Chanticleers to make such an accomplishment, the new coach likely can afford to lose only two games per season, at most, to teams under the FBS level. That’s a tall task for any coach and program.

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