Jerry Richardson will forever be known as the man who brought professional football to the Carolinas.
Thanks to a $10 million donation, the owner of the NFLs Carolina Panthers will now also be inextricably linked with the start of major college football in Charlotte.
UNC Charlottes new 15,000-seat football stadium was crowned Jerry Richardson Stadium during a news conference Tuesday on the facility's concourse.
The school's chancellor, Philip Dubois, announced Richardson has made a $10 million donation to the school in return for the stadium naming rights in perpetuity.
"Today, we take another huge step," Dubois said. "Jerry knows that football can bring the students and the city of Charlotte together and he wanted to be among the first to stand up and state, 'This program is important to me.'"
The gift is the largest single naming rights deal in the athletic departments history, doubling the previous high.
Nobody asked us to do this, Richardson, joined at the news conference by his wife, Rosalind, said. Charlotte is our home (and) I think that athletics plays a key role in any university or college experience and it was an easy decision for me.
In fact, I dont do well when people ask me for money. Id rather give it the way I want to give it.
Richardson said he and his wife have only one purpose behind their donation.
"We want to help to continue to create and maintain a culture of winning and becoming better that transcends everyone," he said.
"It involves every person at UNC Charlotte the chancellor, the trustees, the athletic director, students, players, faculty, people who maintain the grounds and the buildings.
"From my point of view, youre doing everything right. Of course, I have a bias and my bias is football because football has been such an important part of my life."
Richardson and his wife have also endowed a football scholarship in the name of their son, Jon.
"That is from my wife and me. He deserves it," Richardson said.
The first game of the team's inaugural season at Richardson Stadium will be played Aug. 31, against Campbell University.
Charlotte will play two seasons in the Football Championship Subdivision, then move to Conference USA and the Football Bowl Subdivision, the highest level of college football, in 2015.
Richardson had previously partnered with Charlotte banking industry pioneer Hugh McColl to name the stadium field, McColl-Richardson Field. The 49ers have also accepted a gift for the naming of the Judy W. Rose Football Center from longtime supporter Dale Halton.
"We have tapped into the synergy of the names of Richardson and McColl that brought professional football here. What better names to have associated with our football program, said athletics director Judy Rose. "This donation comes from the generous heart of a man who values where he came from and wants to help others get to where theyre going."
Dubois and Rose both said they hoped Richardsons donation and appreciation of the relationship between the university and the surrounding community prompted others to do the same.
"Mr. Richardson has told us he believes more people should step up and support this university. This was his statement today," Rose said.
The Charlotte 49ers completed construction on the $45 million stadium in October of 2012. The football team began practice in the stadium at that time.
Rose there remain other naming-rights opportunities at Richardson Stadium, with its press box the largest of those left.
The 49ers' first football coach, Brad Lambert, was excited to see yet another milestone reached for his fledgling program.
"In the football world, few men stand as tall as Mr. Richardson and to have him, once again, pronounce his support for our school and our program is amazing, Lambert said.
"This is an extremely generous gift. We are honored."
Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter
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