College Football Preview: Charlotte approves football
CHARLOTTE ó The University of North Carolina at Charlotte will get a football team after trustees agreed Friday to move ahead with plans for a program and stadium in time for the 2013 season.
With Chancellor Philip Dubois saying "the time is never going to be better," trustees unanimously approved the plan that would provide $40.5 million in funding to build a permanent stadium and field house, and to seek state approval for a student fee increase to fund the project.
The stadium will begin with 15,000 seats and be expandable to up to 40,000 seats, according to Dubois.
"This is the 'bite the bullet' option," Dubois said during the 40-minute session to consider the proposals. "This basically says that we're going to build the stadium complex, with all the associated costs that we considered with Plan A ... and get football off the ground on the original timetable."
Dubois said the proposal ó called Plan E ó would see student fees increase by $120 for the 2010-2011 school year, with subsequent increases over the next three years to a maximum of $320. Those fees would be used to pay the debt service on the stadium project and other facilities, and the rest would go toward funding the program itself. Those fees could also be reduced, depending on sales and business and alumni contributions.
Dubois said the proposed student fee increase will now go to the UNC Board of Governors for approval, and to the state legislature for its approval to build the stadium and related facilities. He expects the Board of Governors to take up the matter at its next meeting in January 2010, and the legislature when it reconvenes next May.
Also still to be decided is the conference affiliation for Charlotte's team. Athletics director Judy Rose said Friday that she had been in touch with officials from the Colonial League, a football-only conference.
"We've been working on the affiliation throughout all this ... but we're behind the 8-ball as far as scheduling for 2013. If you know anything about college athletics, especially football, those schedules are done four or five years in advance. If we can get a conference affiliation, that would make it a little easier as far as scheduling."
Rose said that if things proceed as expected, she will hire a coaching staff by 2011 and bring in the first class of recruits ó who will be redshirt freshmen ó by 2012.
The plan approved by Charlotte's board of trustees was one of three new proposals brought forward by Dubois during Friday's meeting.
The first ó Plan D ó was to build a 15,000-seat temporary stadium with permanent restroom and concessions facilities. That would have allowed school officials to move forward with a smaller, $20 million budget and would have imposed smaller student fee increases, but would have also incurred continuing leasing fees for the temporary structures such as bleachers, and would have made designing a permanent facility integrating the restrooms and concessions more expensive.
Charlotte's board of trustees first voted to pursue establishing a football program in November 2008, with the original plan centered on raising $45 million to build a permanent on-campus stadium in order to begin playing in the lower-tier Football Championship Subdivision.