The hedge fund millionaire turned sleeveless college football coach: Meet

  • Mark Schlabach, ESPN Senior Citizen WriterSep 22, 2023, 09:00 AM ET Close Senior college football writer Author of 7 books on college football
  • Graduate of the University of Georgia

CHARLOTTE, N.C.– Amy Poggi remembers the first time her spouse, Biff, wore a cutoff T-shirt on the sideline throughout a telecasted game.It was throughout St. Frances Academy of Baltimore’s 2019 season opener at Central High School in Miami, which was telecasted by ESPN. Poggi was packing his bags for the trip to south Florida, and she discovered him wearing one of his preferred Tee shirts with cutoff sleeves and a way-too-deep V-neck.

“I’m thinking he has a polo shirt in his bag since all the other coaches were using golf shirt,” Amy Poggi stated. “I didn’t actually believe too much about it. However when I turned on the television when they were on ESPN, I saw him in that cutoff t-shirt.

“I believed to myself, ‘Oh no. What did they consider his other half letting him go off looking like that?’ But if they understood him, they would understand it. You simply do not tell Biff, ‘Hey, do not do that.’ It in some cases can backfire.”

That’s exactly what took place at Poggi’s brand-new school previously this year. When UNC Charlotte chancellor Sharon Gaber and athletic director Mike Hill saw Poggi wearing a cutoff Tee shirts during a news conference, they asked his personal assistant to make certain the coach didn’t wear one in public settings.After Poggi learned of the request, he not only wore them in practices and news conferences but even in the main group picture. His players booed when he showed up in a polo shirt and declined to take a picture until he changed. Poggi wore a cutoff Tee shirts in front of a nationwide TV audience when the 49ers lost at Maryland 38-20 on Sept. 9. He’ll be donning one once again when Charlotte dips into Florida on Saturday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN+).

The university bookstore is selling sleeveless Under Armour versions of Poggi’s t-shirt, and they’re nearly sold out.

“Biff is unique,” Hill stated. “That word is often abused, however I can safely state that Biff is unique, and I think his closet reflects that on game day. What’s taken place is not a surprise. It’s become part of his persona, which our trainees enjoy. It’s a distinct look, and it’s unapologetically Biff Poggi.”

Hill stated Poggi suggested during his task interview he was going to wear a tie, black shoes and khaki pants on the sideline throughout games. Hill understood much better.

“I was at Florida and Coach [Steve] Spurrier had his visor, and you’ve got Jim Tressel and the sweatshirt vest and [Costs] Belichick has his cutoff hoodie,” Hill stated. “Coaches have their appearance right, which’s Biff’s appearance.”

Poggi’s fashion declaration might be worse. He acknowledged he shaves his upper body prior to preseason camp.

“I don’t tolerate heat extremely well and it’s hot down here, so I desire as little stuff on my skin as possible,” Poggi said. “During the heat, I’m always shaving that things off. It’s just I do not wish to drop dead of heat exhaustion in front of the players.”

Poggi, 63, has actually spent much of his life challenging the status quo, whether it remained in the cutthroat monetary world or equally competitive training profession. There were no shortcuts along the way to his first FBS head-coaching position. Whether Poggi was building a hedge fund start-up, guiding Baltimore high schools to state titles or assisting his good friend Jim Harbaugh reverse Michigan, he rolled up his sleeves, even if he wasn’t always wearing them, and went to work.Trying to develop Charlotte into a constant winner isn’t going to be any simpler.

“I like trying to fix things,” Poggi said. “So much of what we did in business was seeing opportunities that others didn’t see, or seeing chances that were really screwed up that others did see, and trying to repair them, which’s the most gratifying thing to me.”

The Charlotte football program was definitely broken. It was resurrected in 2013 after a 65-year hiatus, and the 49ers played their very first 2 seasons as an FCS independent. After reaching the FBS and Conference U.S.A. in 2015, the 49ers never ever won more than 5 games in a season under coach Brad Lambert. He was replaced by Will Healy, a hotshot FCS coach from Austin Peay, who directed Charlotte to a 7-6 record and its very first postseason game, the Bahamas Bowl, in 2019. Then the bottom fell out and Healy was fired after a 1-7 start in 2022.

Biff Poggi isn’t your normal college football coach, as evidenced by his sideline attire. AP Photo/Nick Wass Poggi, who had actually invested the previous two seasons working as Michigan’s associate head coach, was employed Nov. 15.”If you get the Alabama task, I suggest, you’ve inherited a Lamborghini,”Poggi said.”

I’m not so thinking about acquiring Lamborghinis.”Due to the fact that Charlotte’s program is so new therefore far behind more recognized programs in the FBS, Hill understood the 49ers had to think outside the box when hiring a coach as they prepared to take another step up in competition in their first season in the American Athletic Conference.

“I see him as an accelerant that we needed, and really a disruptor of the status quo,” Hill said. “We saw it as potentially a high-reward hire.”

The 49ers resembled a beat-up stock car when Poggi took control of. He completely changed his lineup, generating 70 brand-new players, consisting of 48 fourth-year transfers. Interestingly, 28 of Charlotte’s brand-new players were with Poggi when he coached at St. Frances Academy from 2017 to 2020.

Early struggles might have been expected. Charlotte’s brand-new players came from Michigan, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pittsburgh, Ole Miss, Notre Dame, Iowa, San Diego State and almost all over else in between.Poggi calls his

group the”Island of Misfit Toys,”referring to the kingdom of broken and flawed toys that “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer “and his good friends come across during the timeless Christmas unique.”No one desires us,”Poggi said.

“You got all these portal men, you do not get in a portal unless it spoils for you. Either your coach lied to you where you were before or you weren’t as great as you believed or something didn’t work out. And the team we had in 2015, the 50 men we kept, they have not had any success at all. I’m an old-fart coach that’s been examined for 63 years, so no one wants me, either. So we’re all in it together. We’re the spotted elephant and the freaking train with the square wheels on it.”

It’s been a rocky start so far. After a 41-25 loss to Georgia State on Saturday dropped the 49ers’ record to 1-2, Poggi said he is requiring much better outcomes. The team’s only success was a 24-3 win over FCS program South Carolina State in the opener.

“This falls on me. I’m informing you right now, I’m on a warpath,” Poggi informed reporters after the Georgia State game. “I just met our coaches, and we’re going to get it done the way I want it done– or either I’m not going to be here, or they’re not going to be here. I am not doing this for the rest of the season.

“I’m the head coach. I’m the person that employed these men. I’m the man that set the vision. I’m the guy that brought the players in. I’m going to change my approach going forward. Coaches are going to be graded a lot more strictly. They’re going to be on a much tighter leash. If you do not like that, we’ll get you another home. However I’m not doing this any longer.”

FRANCIS XAVIER “BIFF” Poggi grew up in a lower middle-class home in Baltimore’s Little Italy. The youngest child of Diana and Gabriel Poggi didn’t have much interest in school– he was expelled from eight schools by 11th grade for combating, playing hooky and other sorts of misbehavior.After he was booted from the 8th school, Calvert Hall, a boys Catholic high school, he wasn’t enrolled in classes for more than a year.”I was labeled as a troublemaker and after that not intelligent, could not manage him, could not take any direction,”Poggi said. “I do not believe it was any of that truly. “Poggi’s life took an unforeseen turn when

a buddy of his father’s connected him with Alex Sotir, the football coach and athletic director at the Gilman School, a top all-boys high school that was known for preparing children of the city’s elite for the Ivy League.”My mother, who enjoyed me to death, chuckled and stated,’They do not take kids like Biffy at Gilman, ‘”Poggi said.”‘That’s for banking executives and old-money individuals.'” They did take Poggi, and by his senior year at Gilman

, he was a 6-foot-5, 260-pound offensive take on. Poggi signed with Pittsburgh to play football for Jackie Sherrill. Dan Marino, Mark May, Russ Grimm, Jimbo Covert and Hugh Green were among his college teammates. Poggi injured his knee as a freshman in 1979 and after two seasons transferred to Duke, where Spurrier was the offensive coordinator.Editor’s Picks 2 Related Duke likewise is where Poggi satisfied his partner, Amy. After the couple married, Poggi worked as an assistant coach

at Brown,

The Citadel and Temple. Already, they had one kid and another one on the way. When Poggi’s mother was detected with cancer, they went back to Baltimore. He became a volunteer coach and teacher at Gilman, making $8,000 annually.Amy’s dad, Joseph Nix, was concerned Poggi would not make adequate cash in training. Poggi had actually revealed an interest in the stock exchange

and Nix, an effective global fabrics executive, taught Poggi the ins and outs of Wall Street.With a$ 25,000 financial investment from Nix, Poggi launched Samuel James Limited in 1986. By the time he turned over its operations, to a few of his previous players

30 years later, it was worth hundreds of millions of dollars.Poggi never ever wandered far from the football field. Even while managing the fund, he worked as an assistant coach at the Gilman School. He was his university’s head coach from 1996 to 2015 and coached each of his 3 children. Gilman won 13 state titles in his 19 seasons. In 2016, Harbaugh employed him as an off-field analyst. Poggi’s kid, Henry, was a fullback for the Wolverines.Poggi had a soft spot for another Baltimore high school, St. Frances Academy, situated in a low-income location of the city. In 2008, while Poggi was training at Gilman School, he wrote St. Frances a$ 60,000 check to help fund its new football program.After just one season at Michigan, Poggi went back to Baltimore to take over St. Frances Academy’s team in 2017. Poggi stated he and his partner personally moneyed scholarships for 85 of his players.Poggi’s very first St. Frances group went 13-0 and was ranked No. 4 in the U.S.A. Today national poll. The Panthers outscored their Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association conference challengers so terribly, 342-50, that numerous declined to play them

anymore. Administrators mentioned security concerns and complained about Poggi hiring players from out of state. Nineteen of his beginners got scholarships in 2017 to FBS programs such as Alabama, Duke, Indiana, Maryland, Mississippi State and West Virginia.Poggi went back to Michigan in 2021. After going 10-3 and playing in the Orange Bowl throughout the 2016 season, the Wolverines lost 4 games or more in 3 of the next four seasons. Worse, they ‘d dropped 8 straight games to competing Ohio State. Harbaugh employed Poggi as his associate head coach.That year, the

Wolverines ended their long dry spell against the Buckeyes with a definite 42-27 success, won a Huge 10 title and reached the College Football Playoff. They ended up No. 3 in the final Associated Press poll with a 12-2 record. They went 13-1 and beat Ohio State once again, 45-23, last season.When Charlotte employed Poggi

, Harbaugh called him a” relied on agent and recognized buddy.”In a post on X, previous Michigan punter Brad Robbins composed on July 26 that Poggi was”accountable for a big amount of the Michigan turnaround as of late … MORE than anyone understands. Impacted everybody around him and worked behind the scenes.

“”Whatever Jim learned from me, and I don’t understand if he found out anything, I found out 50 times more than that from him, “Poggi said.Before the 49ers started spring practice in March, Poggi gathered his patchwork team and told his players each of them had actually been selected to play for him.”The 52 [players] we’ve kept, I have actually handpicked you.”Poggi told the players.”The 70 that we have actually generated from the portal, I chose you. “The 49ers hadn’t picked to play with each other, however, and the very first few spring practices were rough. Returning players informed the new ones that they shouldn’t be talking a lot, while the new ones grumbled the old ones need to be

listening more due to the fact that they ‘d never ever had success. Battles were as typical in practices as Poggi’s stogie smoke. “We play a physical sport. There were a couple practices where things got physical,”security Wayne Jones stated.”That’s the nature of the game. Yes, it went a little too far sometimes, however I think those instances were needed to bring us closer together as a team.” When Deion and Shedeur Sanders reached Jackson State, quarterback Jalon Jones transferred to Charlotte, where he plays for his high school coach. AP Photo/Nick Wass Four previous St. Frances Academy players are starting at Charlotte, including quarterback Jalon Jones, who was Jackson State’s starter in 2020. He transferred as soon as Deion Sanders and his kid, Shedeur, arrived the next season. 8 more previous St. Frances players are on the 49ers’two-deep depth chart, consisting of defensive end Eyabi Okie-Anoma, a first-class recruit who dipped into Alabama and Michigan, and Jonathan Wallace, a 381-pound defensive deal with. “It simply speaks with who he is as a male more than who he is as a coach, you understand what I imply?”stated Charlotte protective line coach Wayne Dorsey, who worked under Poggi at St. Frances. “People left St. Frances and went to different locations and kind of got irritated with the process, kind of fed up with coach talk. They understand [Poggi] is a straight shooter and an extremely sincere, respectable man.”Charlotte’s players likewise understand Poggi has their backs. At AAC media days on July 25, Poggi consistently slapped

a podium and was disturbed that press reporters asked him only 3 questions. “That’s it? Three questions?” Poggi stated.”Maybe that’s due to the fact that you have us ranked last, that’s all what you think of us. So, we get that message, thank you.” Poggi suddenly strolled off the stage. An indication is displayed prominently in Charlotte’s group meeting room of predictions for its 2023 season: 12%opportunity to make a championship game,

0.5%possibility to make the AAC national championship and a 3-9 record. Gamers and coaches are using T-shirts with 2.5 printed on the back– the over-under win total set by Las Vegas oddsmakers.According to Poggi, Charlotte’s players are required to take a multi-week monetary literacy course. Upperclassmen are motivated to finish an eight-week internship throughout the summer season. More than 20 worked at Bank of America, Truist, Lowe’s, House Depot and other Charlotte services this previous summer. Home Depot founder Ken Langone and Lowe’s CEO Marvin Ellison have actually spoken to the group. Poggi offers his players 8 weeks off during the summer season to focus on something other than football.”I believe he actually believes, and I believe it’s true, having known him for 45 years, that this is really his life’s calling,

“Charlotte assistant head coach and unique consultant Jonathon Jacobson said.”Firstly, he’s truly proficient at it. But 2nd of all, I think it’s really purposeful for him. Which’s why I’m here, by the way, due to the fact that I think it’s just really inspirational and it’s a hell of a legacy to basically form and mold young men into grownups.”Jacobson, who went to the Gilman School with Poggi, co-founded a financial investment firm in Boston that handled more than$ 10 billion for university endowments, foundations, pension funds and other institutional financiers. He was semi-retired when Poggi asked him to join his personnel at Charlotte.”I believe his vision is that he’s attempting to make football what college sports ought to be, which is an avenue to prepare kids for the next 40 years of their lives and have them be productive members of society, great dads and great spouses,”Jacobson stated.”He wants to prepare them for life, as opposed to the lottery ticket of playing in the NFL and retiring with an NFL pension, which we all understand what the chances of that really


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