College Football: Charlotte closer to football
By Mike Cranston
CHARLOTTE ó Charlotte wants to be the next South Florida.
After years of remaining a basketball-only school as its enrollment soared and the community's population spiked, Charlotte's chancellor recommended to the board of trustees on Thursday that the school form a football program to start play in 2013.
With the goal of beginning in the lower-tier Football Championship Subdivision and eventually moving to the top level of Division I, athletic director Judy Rose dreams of following South Florida's path. A decade after forming a team, the Bulls are ranked 12th in this week's Associated Press Top 25 poll.
"The South Florida model has always been intriguing to me," Rose said. "How they did it and how they were successful. They started off with trailers on their campus. The one thing that's different from us is they have a stadium to play in."
And that will be the biggest obstacle if the board of trustees approves chancellor Philip Dubois' proposal on Nov. 13.
Unlike South Florida, which plays at the publicly owned Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., playing in Charlotte's NFL stadium seems unlikely. Bank of America Stadium is owned by the Carolina Panthers, and Dubois said he believes the Panthers are wary about wear and tear on the field.
In order to build an expandable 12,000-seat on-campus stadium suitable for FCS play, the school must raise $45 million from corporate and alumni donations and personal seat licenses.
"The most important thing for me is, what would be in the best long-term interest of the university and what would help us achieve our strategic objectives," Dubois said. "What would be difficult about this: the cost."
Dubois spent nearly two years studying the feasibility of adding football at the school, which plays in the non-football Atlantic 10 Conference. Dubois broke from a committee's recommendation calling for a steep increase in student fees and for the school to begin play in the Football Bowl Subdivision by 2016.
There were few dissenting opinions expressed in Thursday's board meeting. The school has discussed adding football for years to boost school spirit and perhaps attract additional funding and support from the growing Charlotte metropolitan area, which often ignores the 49ers for the higher-profile ACC teams in the state.
"We are deep believers in the fact that we will be a university of 35,000 students," board chairwoman Ruth Shaw said. "We want the best for a comprehensive, competitive North Carolina research university."