Charlotte introduces Biff Poggi as its next football coach

The Michigan associate head coach will join the 49ers as the program moves to the American Athletic Conference

The Charlotte 49ers hired Michigan associate head coach Biff Poggi as their new coach last week. (Kevin Richardson / The Baltimore Sun via AP)

CHARLOTTE — A new era has arrived for the Charlotte 49ers football team.

On Monday morning in Jerry Richardson Stadium, Charlotte athletic director Mike Hill introduced new football coach Francis “Biff” Poggi, who will take over the program previously led by Will Healy.

“The people at Michigan rave about this man’s ability to build, to motivate and to lead,” Hill said of Poggi. “He’s the associate head coach of the Michigan Wolverines and he is now the head coach of the Charlotte 49ers.”

Poggi, 63, assured those in attendance that, while this season’s 3-9 record wasn’t ideal as the program plans to move from Conference USA to the American Athletic Conference next season, he is optimistic about the 49ers’ future.

“We are not rebuilding but reshaping,” said Charlotte’s new coach, who was awarded a five-year contract worth $1 million annually. “The AAC is the best Group of Five conference in the country, there’s no doubt about that. It’s a very exciting opportunity.

“Our goal is very simple. We want to win the AAC and we want to win it repeatedly, and we want to get to the College Football Playoff. That’s why I left Michigan and that’s what I’m expecting to do here. You should be asking what’s your timetable — my timetable is now.”

Now in his third year with the third-ranked Wolverines, Poggi has assisted the team to an 11-0 record working under coach Jim Harbaugh.

Before his tenure in Michigan, he found success both as a hedge fund manager and a high school football coach in Baltimore, where he led Gilman School to 13 Maryland state titles. He later founded the football program at Saint Frances Academy, personally funding 65 scholarships as the school became a football powerhouse that was recently chronicled in the HBO documentary “The Cost of Winning.”

In his playing days, Poggi was briefly on the 1978 Pitt team with Dan Marino before he transferred and got his degree from Duke. He then got into college coaching with stops at Brown, Temple and The Citadel.

Poggi’s priority at Charlotte will be fixing the 49ers’ defense.

“Look, we were 130th out of 131 on defense,” Poggi said. “Last time I checked, you can’t win games like that. So we’re going to stop the run on defense. Our formula is really simple. We’re going to stop the run on defense. We’re going to make you one-dimensional so you have to throw the football, and then we’re going to light you up. … We’re going to play a pro-style defense and a pro-style offense. We’re going to run the football downhill. We’re going to run gap schemes and power will be the basis of our running game.”

The Niners concluded their season on Saturday with a 26-21 home win over Louisiana Tech, Charlotte’s first home victory in 378 days.

With a 26-year age gap between Healy and Poggi and the new coach’s nontraditional rise in the coaching ranks, the 49ers will have a new look and feel.

It will also give Poggi a chance to prove his success as a head coach in the high school ranks can translate to college.

“It’s something I always wanted to do, but it had to be the right place and the right time,” he said. “Last year, I had some offers. This year, I’ve had a bunch of offers at Power Five schools. But this is the most exciting place in the country to me. I’m not kidding. When I tell people that I’m coming to Charlotte, this is the phrase I bet 90% of the guys in football-land say: ‘That is a gold mine.’”