The UNC-Charlotte campus has not seen an American football game on their campus since 1948. A sight as simple as the end-zone pylon pictured above is not a normal sight among the 49er faithful. While UNC-Charlotte students could tune in every fall Saturday and watch as thousands of others cheered on their school while they played America’s favorite sport across the country, they were not as fortunate.
Saturday, in front of 13,950 fans in attendance, the 49ers took to field for the first time in 65 years for their first ever taste of spring game action. It was a sight that some students and alumni thought they would never see.
Led by their head coach, former Wake Forest defensive coordinator Brad Lambert, the Green Team, compiled of the first-string players, was successful over the White Team by a final score of 26-3. Although, as I said above, I’m not really sure that any kind of score mattered. Those fans in attendance were just more than happy to be there to see some kind of football.
Impressively, first-string QB Matt Johnson went 13-of-14 for 174 yards and a touchdown, with no turnovers.
The coaches purposely set up the scrimmage as close to a game-type situation as they could, so as to give the players a taste of what it’s going to be like when they open up their inaugural season on August 31 against Campbell University.
This scrimmage alone was the culmination of the hard work started by then Student Body President Benjamin Comstock and Vice President Jordan Van Dyne. The two collaborated in 2006 to get the football program up and running again by organizing a student vote and then following the proper steps forward. With tuition hikes part of the sacrifice to get the deal done, this was no easy task for the two. Yet, they persisted ahead and here we are today.
On November 13, 2008 the Charlotte Board of Trustees unanimously voted in approval to add football to the university.
Now, while the program will play their first two seasons as an independent FCS school, they need to work just as vigorously as any other program to ensure success in the future, as they will be joining the “big boys” at the FBS level in 2015 as a member of Conference USA.
Every journey has a beginning. And for the student-athletes, students, alumni, or just plain-old fans of the university, that journey began Saturday on McColl-Richardson Field.