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49ers game may be in doubt - again

By JIM UTTER
jutter@charlotteobserver.com

The back-and-forth, on-and-off drama surrounding this season's men's basketball game between the Davidson Wildcats and Charlotte 49ers took another bizarre turn on Thursday, once again throwing the 29-year history of the rivalry between the two Mecklenburg County Division I schools in doubt.

Chattanooga, one of Davidson's fellow members in the Southern Conference, released its 2008-09 schedule on Thursday, which includes a Dec. 13 matchup with the Wildcats at Davidson's Belk Arena.

However, that's the date Davidson and Charlotte officials agreed to play when the future of the game was first put in doubt earlier this month.

At that time, Davidson athletics director Jim Murphy said the Wildcats would need to reschedule their game with Chattanooga, but also said that would not be problem. Charlotte rescheduled its game with Winthrop, originally planned for Dec. 13, and moved it to Jan. 31.

Murphy did not return calls or e-mails for comment on Thursday.

The new twist left Charlotte athletics director Judy Rose frustrated.

“We did everything Davidson asked us to do to make the Dec. 13 game work because they assured us it would work,” she said. “We would never have asked Winthrop to change a previously contracted date unless we were certain this game was going to happen.

“Now we're told that Dec. 13 won't work. It seems to me nothing we did was good enough for Davidson to get this game done.”

Jim Horten, a team spokesman for Chattanooga, said the Mocs offered Davidson “three or four” new game dates, but none worked for the Wildcats. Horten said the team then proceeded with its schedule as is.

Horten also said Dec. 13 was not the original date of Chattanooga's visit to Davidson. The Wildcats asked for a date change earlier this year to accommodate another game, but Horten did not know which game it was.

Horten said Chattanooga was in no additional discussions with Davidson regarding their game. Charlotte has released its 2008-09 schedule, which includes the Dec. 13 game at Davidson. Davidson has not released its schedule.

Rose said Charlotte Chancellor Dr. Philip Duois and Davidson President Tom Ross were continuing discussions on the game, but it now appears little chance it will be played.

At the time the schools' agreed to a Dec. 13 date, they also agreed in principle to a four-year agreement to continue the series. The future of that agreement remains uncertain.

Davidson (29-7) reached the NCAA tournament's Midwest Regional final before losing to eventual national champion Kansas last season. Charlotte (20-14) advanced to the National Invitation Tournament and beat Davidson 75-68 at Halton Arena.

Charlotte leads the series with Davidson 26-10, with the winner of the annual matchup receiving the Hornets' Nest Trophy. In seven seasons, the teams played twice.

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