You probably missed the fact tiny Coastal Carolina whipped Furman’s football team in a triple overtime on Saturday, squeaking past the Southern Conference giants, 47-45, but there is something fun and wonderful you need to know. Coastal’s first-year coach Joe Moglia has a picture in his office of him playing poker with billionaire investor Warren Buffett and it is aptly inscribed, “To Joe, who always ends up with all the chips.”
You see, Moglia, a quiet 63-year-old, has an outside job to keep up with the $175,000 he is being paid to coach the Chanticleers, now 2-0 on the season with Eastern Kentucky coming this weekend. He is – right now, today – the chairman of the board of a huge Forbes 500 corporation called TD Ameritrade. An online company for stock trading and investing, the Omaha-based giant has over six million customers and Moglia is the guy who made it explode.
According to the company’s website, TD Ameritrade places more trades online than any other brokerage at an average of 379,000 per day. And, according to Coastal Carolina’s profile on its new coach, “Moglia served as TD Ameritrade's Chief Executive Officer for seven years (2001-08). Under his leadership, the company had a 500 percent return on investment, and the firm's market cap increased from $700 million to $10 billion. Prior to joining TD Ameritrade, Moglia spent 17 years working with Merrill Lynch (1984-2001).”
At the height of his colossal rise at TD Ameritrade, it is said Joe was making $15 million a year in salary alone. But, as he often says in speeches around the country or when he is being accorded the highest standard as a financial baron, he is driven by a type-written mantra he learned in an earlier life as a high school football coach: “MAN – an individual willing to stand on his own two feet and accept responsibility.”
Joe Moglia is about making men, not money. Every morning he leaves his shiny Audi parked in the garage at his home on Pawley’s Island and drives a used state-issued Ford Taurus to Conway – right outside Myrtle Beach – and lives his life’s dream. It ain’t playing poker with Buffett.
No, he makes sure a second-team linebacker gets to class, schemes with his assistants at a blackboard, watches endless DVD images and spends his afternoons teaching “BAM” (Be A Man) to college age kids in a way they won’t wilt in the third and final act of an overtime football being played in Greenville. Joe Moglia once again has life all figured out.
It didn’t come easy. In 2010 a Sports Illustrated profile painted his beginnings thusly, “The poverty didn't bother him. It was nothing new. The son of uneducated immigrants from Europe, Moglia grew up in a Manhattan slum, back when such a concept existed. He and his four younger siblings crammed into a two-bedroom apartment. He drank. He stole. He fought.
“’Two of my best friends died in high school, one of a drug overdose,’ Moglia told SI’s Jon Werthheim, saying, “’I never did drugs, so I wouldn't have been with him. The other guy got killed by police robbing a liquor store. That guy, I could have been with.’"
Moglia became a father at age 19 and worked his way through Fordham, driving a cab, selling fruit (like his dad did from age 18 to 80) and scrapping along. He got into coaching at Dartmouth, living at first in an unheated storage room over the football offices and rising to become the defensive coordinator as Dartmouth won two Ivy’s.
In 1983 he gave up on football, got into a training program with Merrill Lynch and it was off to the races. His meteoric rise surprised no one and, while he has received hundreds of business offers over the next 30 years, he finally broke the bonds surrounding his heart and got a job working for Nebraska coach Bo Pellini as his executive assistant. The job paid $0.00 every day for two years.
As things go in life, Coastal Carolina decided it was time for a coaching change and fired the popular David Bennett after his ninth lackluster year. Moglia, maybe because of his unique profile, caught the eye of Coastal president David DeCenzo and, this past December, the Chanticleers (named after the rooster in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales) got their man.
“There is no doubt about it, Coastal athletic director Hunter Yurachek told the Charleston Post and Courier, “This was definitely an out-of-the-box hire and a gamble. But there’s one thing I can tell you; everything he has touched has turned to gold.”
Thus far his team is 2-0. And in the Palmetto State, where everything is Spurrier or Clemson, he’s the talk. The experiment is going well with a 63-year-old who has never been a head football coach in college before this season and Joe Moglia is doing exactly what he loves. That’s better than winning in overtime. Joe Moglia bears watching. After all, even the Oracle of Omaha inscribed on his picture, “To Joe, who always ends up with all the chips.”