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Charlotte’s football fortunes changed when Chancellor Phil Dubois committed to the cause

Tom Sorensen
Tom Sorensen has been a columnist at The Observer for 20 years and has been at the paper for 25, writing about nearly every sport in the Carolinas.
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JEFF SINER - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
Charlotte Chancellor Philip Dubois broached the subject of football, officially, in 2006.

The Observer’s Tom Sorensen wrote this column on Feb. 10, 2011.

I don’t care if the early line on the 2019 Virginia Tech-Charlotte football game in Blacksburg, Va., is Hokies by 471/2.

I care that Virginia Tech is on the schedule. I care that Charlotte has a schedule. I care that Charlotte football never felt as real as it did Wednesday at the school’s first Football Forum.

The 49ers have considered football for more than a decade. Long ago there were clandestine meetings in dark rooms at which you needed a password, and a green and white shirt, to get in.

And then in 2006, Charlotte Chancellor Phil Dubois broached the subject, officially, at a retreat of the board of trustees.

In ’08, Dubois committed to the cause.

In ’09, the N.C. legislature did.

Yet when I tried to envision the program, the image was always vague. I’ve been a proponent from the start. But I couldn’t see the details.

At McKnight Hall on campus Wednesday, we saw a rendering of Charlotte’s stadium and we heard Dan Van Dyke of architect Jenkins-Peer say, “This is where the home team will enter the field on game day.”

That was a detail. There will be a home team.

We heard the term tailgate at least once every 10 minutes. Tailgate connotes friends and families and graduates and students and smoke from grills rising high in the air. When was the last time somebody used 49ers and tailgate in the same sentence?

If you oppose Charlotte football, nothing that was said will change your mind, and there was a time when almost everybody opposed Charlotte football.

Some of the criticism had to do with money. Why start football now?

Dubois cited the obvious Wednesday. When will football cost less?

Most of the early criticism had nothing to do with money, however. It had to do with perceived status and perceived roles. Charlotte is the commuter school on the edge of town that does not play in the ACC. Yet it wants football?

I found the criticism sickening. I mean, half the schools in the ACC don’t play football.

The 49ers, to their everlasting credit, refused to let outsiders determine who they would be.

There’s also this: The decision to add football isn’t really about football. How do the 49ers sell themselves to Charlotte? How do they convince alumni to return to campus? How do they become a factor and a destination in their own town?

It won’t be the science program. It probably won’t be journalism.

Football works. Charlotte is going to play by gawd Virginia Tech, the ACC’s lone football power. You imagine driving I-77 from Charlotte to Blacksburg, Va., the morning of the game (if cars and oil still exist). Show me a team on the basketball schedule that will excite fans so.

Perspective: The Hokies are eight years away. More typical is Chowan in Charlotte in 2013 in a 15,000-seat stadium. Early line: Chowan by 51/2.

This will not be big-time football. Charlotte doesn’t even have a marching band. But it will be football.

The 49ers are not going to beat the Hokies. But they’re more likely to beat Virginia Tech than they were to get a team.

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