Football to Play FCS Playoff Qualifier Coastal Carolina in 2011


Catawba College has announced it will play Coastal Carolina University in football this fall, signing a contract to play in Conway, S.C., on Sept. 10.

The contest between NCAA Division II Catawba and the Division I Chanticleers will pit former Indians' Coach David Bennett against his previous school for the first time.  Bennett will battle Catawba Coach Chip Hester, who Bennett hired in 1995 as an assistant.  Hester took over the Catawba head position when Bennett left to start up the Coastal program from scratch in December 2001.

The game fills an open date for Catawba this season which had been filled in previous years with the annual Mayor's Cup contest with Livingstone College.  The Mayor's Cup series began in 2000 and Catawba has won all 11 games.  Livingstone and Catawba officials decided recently to observe a hiatus of the Mayor’s Cup game.

"We certainly look forward to resuming the Mayor's Cup series some day, but for now, playing a financial guarantee game with a Division I opponent makes a lot of financial sense," said Dennis Davidson, Catawba's Director of Athletics. "And the fact that this game is with Coastal Carolina is particularly exciting as it reunites a lot of friends among the two coaching staffs.  It should also be fun for our alumni and fans, many of whom will make the trip to the beach in September, I'm sure."

Terms of Catawba's contract with Coastal, a one-year commitment, will not be disclosed.

The Sept. 10 contest will be the second game of the season for both teams as Catawba will open at St. Augustine's in Raleigh on Sept. 3, while Coastal will battle Furman on that same day.

Hester and Bennett are currently tied for second place in all-time football wins at Catawba, with 63, behind the 107 won by Coach Gordon Kirkland's teams between 1934 and 1948.  Bennett held the head coach position at Catawba from 1995 through 2001 and Hester now has nine seasons under his belt, beginning in 2002.

Hester teams are 63-34 in his tenure at Catawba, including South Atlantic Conference championships in 2003 and 2007 and NCAA Division II playoff appearances in 2002, 2004 and 2007.

“The opportunity to play Coastal Carolina is an honor,” said Hester.  “This huge challenge for our football program will hopefully prepare us for later battles in the South Atlantic Conference.  The fact that Coach Bennett, a Catawba College Hall of Famer, and his staff are coaching this game will make it especially meaningful for our program.  The respect we have for our friends at Coastal definitely will make this game one to remember.  We truly appreciate the opportunity.”

The Chants are 56-35 under Bennett in that program's first eight seasons, winning four Big South Conference titles.

In 2010, Catawba posted a 6-4 mark while Coastal rebounded from a 1-4 start to go 6-6, losing in the first round of the Football Champion Series (formerly Division I-AA) playoffs to Western Illinois.

Current Catawba assistant coaches Todd McComb, Brian Hinson, D.J. Summers, Khanis Hubbard and Radell Lockhart all played for Bennett at Catawba, while current defensive coordinator Bob Lancaster was on his staff.  Current Coastal assistant coaches Curtis Walker, Kevin Brown and Grant Cain all played and later coached at Catawba.  Another Coastal assistant, Mike Castellano, got his start as a student coach before graduating from Catawba.

Both McComb and Hinson also completed graduate assistantships at Coastal Carolina, both earning master’s degrees.

“I think it is great for this game to happen,” said Bennett.   “It is outstanding for the Catawba family to have a reunion at the Grand Strand.  This should be very meaningful for the student athletes, but especially for the alumni and fans because we still have so many friends that pull for both of these schools.  And you never forget the folks who gave you and your staff that first chance to be a head coach.

“I know that we will get Catawba’s best shot and hopefully, we’ll play well too,” continued Bennett.  “It should be an exciting night.”

In addition to Bennett, who was inducted just last year, Walker, a three-time All-American linebacker at Catawba, is also in the Catawba Sports Hall of Fame.

In addition to the coaches involved, Coastal’s equipment coordinator Wilson Beaver is a Catawba graduate and football administrative assistant Jill Kingston was a three-sport standout at South Rowan before playing basketball at Campbell.  Even video coordinator Louis Francois was on Bennett’s staff at Catawba.

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