Wofford ready for Panthers camp
SPARTANBURG, S.C. ó When Wofford athletic director Richard Johnson wondered if the NFLís labor troubles would disrupt Carolina Panthers training camp, he had an unimpeachable source to turn to ó his former boss and current Carolina president Danny Morrison.
Morrison simply told Johnson the school should continue its preparations as always. ěThatís what weíre doing,î Johnson said Wednesday.
Wofford has been the summer home of the Carolina Panthers since the teamís first training camp in 1995 when Johnson was its basketball coach and Morrison, who hired Johnson, its AD.
Although the New York Giants, New York Jets and Baltimore Ravens have canceled plans for sleep-away training camps, Johnson has no such worries.
Still, Wofford is about a week behind schedule. Carolina was scheduled to start workouts July 29th, a date Johnson expects they wonít make. Dorm rooms havenít been switched out ó beds for a 300-pound NFL lineman are different than those of a typical student ó and the training room isnít yet set for the NFL teamís specifications.
The Panthers and Wofford are in the second year of a renewal agreement that will keep camp here through 2014, with an option for additional seasons. Itís been a fruitful union for both sides. Morrison was instrumental in wooing the Panthers in the early 1990s, a move that helped Wofford rise from an NAIA program into NCAA Division I. Wofford alumnus and Panthers owner Jerry Richardson helped the school construct its Richardson Physical Activities Building, complete with NFL quality locker rooms, meeting rooms and training facilities.
Panther practice sessions generally draw between 2,000 and 3,000 fans, with that number doubling for some stadium scrimmages.
Then thereís the buzz having the Panthers on campus generates for the liberal arts school of about 1,450 students. ěNo question, the exposure that we get from them being here is big for us,î Wofford offensive coordinator Wade Lang said. ěObviously, weíve got to move some things around for them a bit. But itís worth having them here.î
Lang, entering his 25th season on Woffordís staff, said there arenít many Football Championship Subdivision ó formerly NCAA Division I-AA ó schools that can match the Terriersí facilities and thatís a direct result of the Panthersí involvement.
The NFL club also has helped Wofford stand out from the crowd in some cases.
Richardson and Morrison attended the Southern Conference basketball championship in Charlotte, N.C., two seasons ago when the Terriers earned their first SoCon championship and NCAA tournament berth. Then this past March, former Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox, now Denver Broncos coach, attended the Terriers first-round NCAA game and talked about Wofford on national TV. ěYou canít buy moments like that,î Johnson said.
If talks stretch to mid-August, Johnson understands it wonít make sense for the Panthers or Wofford to have training camp here. But if the lockout ends soon heís ready for the frenzy on campus when the Panthersí first-round draft pick, quarterback Cam Newton, arrives.
ěLike everybody else, I want to know if heís the real deal,î Lang said.