Students behind UNC Charlotte's Halton Arena.

Students behind UNC Charlotte’s Halton Arena.

The 23,000 student UNC Charlotte university has recently announced they plan to field a brand-new Division 1AA team by 2013, with hopes of going 1A within 5 – 10 years.  The decision comes after years of student initiatives, chancellor decisions, trustees debating, and Charlotte city planing involvement. Charlotte will meet title IX requirements, adding multiple women’s sports and new facilities to match. A new on-campus football bowl stadium is projected to seat 30,000, and will require taking on a low-interest $40.5 million debt. Student Fee’s are also planned to rise $320 over a number of years, unless corporate support is higher than expected. Charlotte believes that adding football will increase student life on campus, ridding them of a “suitcase-college” image in the midst of a growth to North Carolina’s largest university of 35,000 students by 2017.

Rendering of Charlotte's new 30,000 seat bowl stadium

Rendering of Charlotte’s new 30,000 seat bowl stadium

The Football decision doesn’t come without controversey – being so costly in the midst of a deep recession. The facts show, that for most universities, football programs lose money unless they are predominately successful. The debate even sparked millionaire & former University of North Carolina System President Dick Spangler to lecture Charlotte faculty on why football is a bad idea.  Although, his critisim that “Charlotte isn’t large enough or doesn’t deserve football like premier schools such as UNC and NC State” were found largely unfavorable towards Charlotte students & faculty.  Indeed, one who questions if UNC Charlotte should have football should be questioning if their own college should have it as well.  Even the 6,500 student UNC-Pembroke has football. UNC Charlotte administration argues that without football, students looking for the “full college experience” skip over the university – hurting the quality of the students applying & being accepted.

However, I can’t help but realize the potential of a successful college football program in Charlotte.  North Carolina, a state that’s always dominated college basketball yet struggled in college football, has a huge position open for a successful team for fans to get behind.  Charlotte’s built-in football culture with the NFL’s Panthers could help  player / coach recruiting, as well as ticket sales.  Charlotte Athletic Director Judy Rose has been working closely with University of South Florida’s (USF) athletic director & department – hoping to model Charlotte’s football program after the success of USF’s program – starting 1AA in 1997 and going to Big East 1A in just 8 years.