David Bennett was introduced as Coastal's first head football coach on Friday, Dec. 21, 2001.
Bennett, a native of Greer, comes to Coastal after serving the past seven years as the head coach at Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C.
"We are very pleased to have David Bennett and his family join us here at Coastal Carolina University," said Coastal President Ronald R. Ingle. "He has a proven record as a coach and came highly recommended not only from people throughout South Carolina, but also nationally. Air Force Head Coach Fisher DeBerry brought Coach Bennett to my attention when he sent me a letter stressing that David was the person we needed to hire."
In seven years as the head coach at Catawba, Bennett posted an overall record of 63-17, leading the Indians to three consecutive appearances in the NCAA Division II playoffs, including a run into the national semifinal round in 2001.
"David Bennett has had proven success at Catawba College and we are pleased to have him as the inaugural football coach at Coastal Carolina University," said Warren 'Moose' Koegel, director of athletics at Coastal. "Coach Bennett genuinely cares about the well-being of the student-athletes as well as their involvement in the community. He is an excellent teacher of the game and will be able to put together a plan that will enable Coastal Carolina to be competitive in I-AA football. As a native of South Carolina, he has a great rapport with high school coaches throughout the state."
Bennett, 40, joined the Catawba staff in 1990 as an assistant coach and was promoted to head coach on Nov. 14, 1994. In his first season, he led the Indians to a 7-3 record, earning both South Atlantic Conference and American Football Coaches Association Coach of the Year honors. The 1996 Indians' squad posted a 9-2 record and captured the SAC Championship.
The 1997 and 1998 teams posted record of 8-3 and 6-4, respectively, before Bennett's program made its assault on the NCAA Division II national football scene. The 1999 season saw Catawba post an 11-2 record and earn the first of three NCAA Division II playoff berths. An 11-1 record and another SAC Championship came in 2000, but the best was yet to come.
In 2001, Catawba went 11-2 to give Bennett a 33-5 record over the past three seasons. The Indians won the SAC Championship and the South Region Championship before falling to Grand Valley State University in the national semifinals.
Bennett earned four SAC Coach of the Year honors and three AFCA South Region Coach of the Year honors during his career.
"It is tough to leave such a great family at Catawba, but it is great to be joining a great family at Coastal Carolina University," said Bennett. "Everyone I met while visiting the university - from Dr. Ingle, to Dr. Sally Horner, to Coach Koegel, to the faculty, staff and other head coaches - they all have a genuine interest and passion to start a football program in a first-class way. We are honored to be selected to be a part of the dream that will become a reality. This is the ultimate challenge for any coach. To take a program that does not even have a ball yet and build it from the ground up."
Bennett earned 10 varsity letters at Cheraw High School, where he was named All-Conference in football, basketball, tennis and track. A three-year-starter in football, he led the Braves to a 20-4 record as the starting quarterback, including the 1979 AAA State Championship.
A 1984 graduate of Presbyterian College, Coach Bennett lettered in football and golf while earning a bachelor of arts degree in history and social studies with a minor in coaching. He also began his coaching career at Presbyterian, working with the wide receivers as a student assistant.
Bennett earned his master's degree in guidance and counseling in 1986 from Clemson University, where he worked with the running backs on the Tigers' 1986 ACC Championship squad. While at Clemson, he coached in the Independence and Gator bowls.
In 1987, he served as the offensive coordinator at Goose Creek High School, a AAAA program in Charleston. The Gator's boasted the top rushing offense in the state that season.
Bennett then coached at Newberry College before accepting the position at Catawba.
He and his wife Melanie have a daughter, Hayes (8), and a son, Jeb (5).