Rags to Riches, CEO to Football Coach

By Chris Kidd, Special for  USDR

Radio Host Kevin Price, and Chris Kidd, Financial Coach and Contributor on the Price of Business on Business Talk 1110 AM KTEK (on Bloomberg’s home in Houston), interviewed Coastal Carolina University’s head football coach Joe Moglia. The coach shared his incredible rags to riches story, and his passion for  coaching.

Click here to listen to the  interview:

Joe Moglia was born and raised in a rough inner city area of New York City. Both of his parents were immigrants with little formal education. His father was born in Italy, and never finished eighth grade, and his mother was born in Ireland, and never finished high school. Growing up Joe, his four siblings, and his parents lived in a two bedroom, one bathroom  apartment.

As Joe grew up he became involved in sports, which helped keep him out of trouble at times. Coach Moglia explained, “Two of my best friends got killed in high school. One died of a drug overdose, the other was killed by the police, robbing a liquor store. I was with those guys everyday in my neighborhood. I would not have been with the guy doing drugs, but I would have been with the guy robbing the liquor store had I not been playing high school  football.”

After graduating from high school Moglia’s goal was to play football or baseball in college. That changed when his girlfriend became pregnant and he became a father. Joe’s father advised him not to go to college, but Joe went anyway. “My freshman year I am driving a New York City taxi cab, a truck for the Post Office, and working in my father’s food store.” For the first time in his life he did not have sports. When Joe was in Florida for school, Florida Prep they gave him a job as a football coach while he was in  college.

Moglia said, “My sophomore, junior, and senior year, I majored in economics, thought I wanted to go to Wall Street, coached high school football during the season, and worked in my father’s food store in the off season.” Coach Moglia “really, really loved the coaching,” so he decided if he could get his own high school program he would pursue a career in coaching, and if not, he would go to Wall Street. He became the youngest head football coach in the history of Delaware, at age twenty-two, and he coached there for sixteen  years.

Listen to the  interview

Then in 1981, his wife filed for divorce, and he could not afford to provide for his four kids, his wife, and live independently on the salary he was making as a defensive coordinator at Dartmouth. Fortunately (which is a very positive spin on it) he got permission to move into the storage room above the football office at Dartmouth. A few years later he had a big decision to make. In 1984 Coach Moglia got an offer from the University of Miami (the National Champion at the  time).

Moglia recalls, “I can go from the defensive coordinator at Dartmouth to an assistant on the defensive staff for the National Championship team. That’s a great step forward on my career, but I’m going to live in Coral Gables, my kids are going to live in New Hampshire, and the toughest career decision I’ve ever made was turning down that job, because it said I had to get out of coaching, but I didn’t think I could do my job as a coach if I couldn’t live up to my responsibilities as a parent.” So Joe got out of coaching and moved on the next chapter of his  life.

A few months later he was in the MBA training program at Merrill Lynch. “There were 26 of us,” he says, “there were 25 MBA’s and 1 football coach. Almost everybody thought that I wouldn’t make it. A few years later those MBA’s are working for me.” Joe spent seventeen years with Merrill  Lynch.

In 2001 a struggling company named TD Ameritrade offered Moglia the CEO job. Over his tenure at TD Ameritrade, the company went from a market cap of $700 million to over $10 billion. As the coach explains it: “If we had been a football team, it would have been like Coastal Carolina beating Alabama for the National Championship.” In 2008 Joe stepped down from the CEO seat, but still remains Chairman of TD Ameritrade today. That is when all kinds of offers came in from other players in the financial world to even the possibility of having his own TV show, but only one offer caused him to lose  sleep.

Coach Moglia had received a call from a group of alumni at Yale who asked if he would be interested in coming back to coaching football. He asked them if they realized he hadn’t coached in twenty years. The alumni told him that they thought he had the skill sets needed of a head coach, and he probably had a competitive advantage. There was only one issue: This had “never, ever, ever been done in the over 100 years history of college football.” Joe said he didn’t lose any sleep over any of the other offers, but he couldn’t get the football thing out of his head, so he returned to coaching football. Today he is the head coach of Coastal Carolina University’s football team, and has been there for the last three  years.

Chris Kidd asked, “Where does that passion come from?” Coach Moglia’s reply was, “At the end of the day, I’ve got 6 kids, I’ve got 118 players. I have kind of the same objective for each of them: I want them to be happy. I don’t think you can be happy if you’re not doing something for a living, where you have to devote so much time and energy, that you’re not one, cut out for, and two, love  doing.”

Kevin Price chimed in, “I’ve always said that business and sports translate well, and you’re living proof of that.” Coach Moglia replied, “At the end of the day I think its about the decisions you make on people and how you handle yourself under stress. The leadership principles in the business world and the world of football are identical, they’re the same.” Moglia says, “I often said in the beginning of my career at Merrill Lynch that I was a much better business guy because of my experience as a football coach, and today I am frankly a much better head college football coach because of my experience as a business  guy.”

Click here to listen to the  interview

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