Even as economic news grows worse by the day, support for football at UNC Charlotte is well past the 50-yard line after little or no effort.
Last month, UNCC Chancellor Phil Dubois recommended the school suit up a team by 2013, if boosters and football fans demonstrated support by raising $5 million in six months to help build a $45.3 million stadium complex.
He suggested selling 5,000 personal seat licenses – or “Forty-Niner Seat Licenses” – for $1,000 each, just for the right to buy tickets.
Three weeks later, the school has taken reservations for more than 3,100 licenses, or 60 percent of the goal.
Never miss a local story.
UNCC is taking no money until trustees vote on Dubois' recommendation. That's scheduled for Nov. 13. Still, the response is well beyond expectations, athletic director Judy Rose said.
“We're talking three weeks with really no push or effort on our part,” Rose said last week. “We can't roll out a plan until it is endorsed by trustees.
“But I am very pleased with the response. People have said, ‘Yes, we're interested. We're ready. We want football.'”
The biggest obstacle to football is a place to play. Dubois recommended building an expandable 12,000-seat stadium on campus, or playing at a renovated Memorial Stadium in uptown Charlotte.
He charged Rose's department with raising $15 million. With $5 million from FSLs, that would still leave $25 million to raise.
They'll easily sell the 5,000 licenses, Rose said, and she is contemplating offering more.
“But if we sell more, we've got to make sure we've got a place for those people to sit,” she said.
A UNCC team would play in a conference in the NCAA's Football Championship Subdivision (formerly known as Division 1-AA) for the foreseeable future.
Those schools draw an average of 6,000 students to home games. If another 5,000 seats are taken up by license holders, that would leave 1,000 for players' relatives and walkup fans, Rose said.
“We'll have to wait and see what happens after the trustees take their vote,” Rose said. “If we built a bigger stadium, it would cost more, and we'd have a bigger black hole to fill. But, at the same time, you've got to strike when the iron's hot.”