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Meet the Chanticleers

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Looking ahead, Coastal Carolina is a big part of the Sun Belt's recalibration.

With a winning culture already established, Coastal Carolina will debut at the next level as a confident bunch. This mighty rooster has reason to crow.

South Carolina's grand strand is one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in the country. The 60-mile strip where the Atlantic Ocean curls up to the Palmetto State is home to pristine beaches, championship golf courses and one of the most dynamic athletic departments in all of college sports. Once known by some solely because of their unique mascot, the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, located a simple Sunday stroll from Myrtle Beach in nearby Conway, are now a national name.

Last summer, the accomplished Coastal Carolina baseball team made history by winning the school's first-ever national championship. The Chaticleers defeated top-ranked Florida, Texas Tech and Arizona in the College World Series, rallying to win the final two contests in a best-of-three final series with the Wildcats. It was a magical moment for Coastal Carolina, both boosting baseball's already proud profile and serving as a key springboard for a program-wide transition.

On September 1st, 2015, school president David A. DeCenzo announced that the Chanticleers would join the Sun Belt Conference. The announced move was especially-meaningful for football, elevating Coastal Carolina from the Football Championship Subdivision to the Football Bowl Subdivision, the highest level of competition. 

"NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision membership and the tradition of the Sun Belt Conference will present new opportunities for our athletics program to help showcase the tremendous impact being forged by our University," Athletics Director Matt Hogue stated when the news was released. "By this invitation, we have been recognized for our excellence on and off the field. All Chanticleers past and present I'm sure will take great pride in this historic announcement."

Football is currently in its multi-year jump. After playing an FCS schedule with a Sun Belt patch on their uniform a season ago, the Chanticleers will compete as a league member this fall, able to win the conference championship, but ineligible for the postseason. Coastal Carolina's first Sun Belt game is set for September 30th at Louisiana-Monroe, with Georgia State coming to Brooks Stadium for a highly-anticipated league home debut on October 7th.  

Back in late March, an official groundbreaking ceremony was held to kick off expansions to Brooks Stadium. Phase one, which will be completed by game one, will increase seating to at least 15,000. Phase two will push capacity to a minimum of 20,000, with an upper deck and luxury suites. Progress is ongoing.    

Not long ago, football, in Conway, was just a concept. It became an institution almost overnight. The Chanticleers played their first season in 2003, meaning the tide, for this team, is clearly still coming in. There are some direct parallels between Coastal Carolina and its new league partner; founded in 2001, the Sun Belt is young and full of potential, with a two-division format and a championship game on the schedule for next fall. 

Success, for the Chanticleers, has come naturally. Coastal Carolina has 113 victories in 14 years and has never won fewer than five games in a single season. Over the past four years, the Chanticleers are 43-10 and have spent multiple weeks atop the national polls. Prior to becoming ineligible for the FCS postseason due to reclassification, they had made the playoffs four years in a row and five of the last six seasons. In 2012, Coastal Carolina was in the tournament's second round with Appalachian State and Georgia Southern, now Sun Belt peers.

Already, over a dozen Chanticleers have made the NFL, most notably Pro Bowlers Josh Norman and Mike Tolbert, along with Jerome Simpson and Tyler Thigpen. Running back De'Angelo Henderson, who set an NCAA Division I record with a touchdown in 35 straight games, was just selected in the sixth round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos. Additionally, Dustin Johnson, a 15-time winner on the PGA Tour and the number one ranked golfer in the world, is a Coastal Carolina alumnus.  

Coach Joe Moglia is the most-fascinating of the Chanticleers. As if a 51-15 record wasn't enough, he was the CEO of TD Ameritrade from 2001-2008 after 17 years at Merrill Lynch. While Moglia was at TD Ameritrade, the company experienced a 500% return on investment and increased its market capitalization from $700 million to $12 billion. He is only person to publish books on both football and investing. In his first season at CCU, Moglia was named the Big South Coach of the Year; in 2015, he was the Eddie Robinson National Coach of the Year. 

Coastal Carolina enters Sun Belt play with the momentum of having won seven games in a row. Both of the Chanticleers losses a season ago came by one-point to playoff teams, a mere handful of plays standing between 10-2 and 12-0. Defensive coordinator Mickey Matthews was the head coach at James Madison from 1999-2013, winning the 2004 national championship and earning multiple coach of the year awards. Former Charleston Southern head coach Jamey Chadwell comes over as offensive coordinator.  

With a winning culture already established, Coastal Carolina will debut at the next level as a confident bunch. This mighty rooster has reason to crow.     

Looking ahead, the Chanticleers are a big part of the Sun Belt's recalibration. Coastal Carolina will ultimately slide into the league's east division with Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, Georgia State and Troy. Each aforementioned member, save the Trojans, just recently moved to the FBS ranks. The Chanticleers are following a proven path. 

"Five years ago, we were part of that membership shakeup that kind of started with the ACC and its additions that impacted the Big East and Conference USA. Yet five years later, we have been able to add Georgia Southern, Appalachian State and Coastal Carolina, along with Texas State, to go with a sound core of members from the beginning," Commissioner Karl Benson explained. "We have great balance now as we have some of the 'older, established' programs and some of the programs that have come up through the FCS."

In Coastal Carolina, one of America's top tourist destinations is welcoming the Sun Belt to its back porch. The Chanticleers are bringing a new energy to their new conference and, steps from the sea, appear ready to make a splash.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports