It's official. The Charlotte 49ers will start football in the fall of 2013.
Nearly three and a half years after the UNC Charlotte Board of Trustees authorized a study of the feasibility of establishing an intercollegiate football program, Governor Beverly Perdue has signed the University Non-Appropriated Capital Project bill that included the funding plan for the 49ers football stadium construction, effectively placing the final piece of the 49ers football puzzle.
"With the Governor's signature endorsing the General Assembly's approval of construction of our football-related facilities, we open a new chapter in the dynamic history of UNC Charlotte," said UNC Charlotte Chancellor Dr. Philip Dubois. "The path to this point has been a lengthy but carefully considered one, from the Trustees' decision in late 2006 to authorize a study of the feasibility of football to final approval by the Board of Governors this past spring."
The 49ers have cleared numerous hurdles since Dubois recommended on Sept. 18, 2008 that the campus initiate a football program beginning in the fall of 2013.
"We've done it," said 49ers Director of Athletics Judy Rose. "To think that what was started way back with the initial feasibility study - and even before that with the grassroots movement -- has now received the final go-ahead. It's extremely satisfying. This has not been an easy process, but nothing worthwhile ever is. There are no more ifs, no more votes, no more approvals. We will play football in 2013. It's a done deal."
The 49ers first pushed forward with the premise to start a football program when the appointed Football Feasibility Committee, chaired by community leader Mac Everett, presented its unanimous recommendation to Dubois in February of 2008. On Sept. 16 of that year, two days before Chancellor Dubois was to make his recommendation after months of his own due diligence, the University's student body held a pep rally in support of adding football. With the students' backing, the University gave its approval, first in the form of the Chancellor's recommendation and then on November 13, 2008 when the University's Board of Trustees approved the recommendation without opposition.
Subsequent approvals were required both from the Board of Trustees and the University of North Carolina Board of Governors for the addition of student fees to provide partial support for the operation of a football program and the construction of facilities, including a new stadium and field house on campus. Both boards endorsed those plans unanimously. As part of a larger bill dealing with the financing and construction of new campus facilities within the UNC system, approval by both houses of the General Assembly was also required. That approval was secured in June in the Senate and July in the House. Today, Governor Beverly Purdue signed on as well.
"We have many people to thank," Dubois added, "including Mac Everett and the members of the public advisory committee which supported football at Charlotte, the Board of Trustees, UNC President Erskine Bowles, the Board of Governors, the General Assembly, and the Governor. Most of all, we acknowledge our hard-working staff and our loyal students who have agreed to carry much of the financial burden. This is a great time to be a Niner. We hope that the entire community will make us their 'home team' on Saturdays."
The 49ers raised over $5.8 million with the sale of 49ers Seat Licenses (FSL's) and capital gifts in the year that followed the Board of Trustees' initial approval. Charlotte officials expect a renewed fundraising effort will be even more successful.
"We sold over 3200 FSL's during a time when folks still weren't sure we were going to field a team," Rose said. "We hadn't received all the necessary approvals. Now, fans can purchase those FSLs with the knowledge that yes, the 49ers will play football in 2013."
The 49ers continue to sell FSL's, which are required to guarantee a seat to 49ers football games.
"We have said all along that this is not just about the 49ers athletic department," noted Rose. "It's about the University, the city and the region. So many people have recognized the potential and possibilities and stepped forward in support. This is their success."