College Sports

UNCC chancellor Phil Dubois delivers message to 49ers fans who want Judy Rose fired

Charlotte 49ers head basketball coach Mark Price, center, poses with director of athletics Judy Rose, left, and UNC Charlotte chancellor Phillip Dubois. Rose’s two most prominent programs, men’s basketball and football, have struggled to win consistently.
Charlotte 49ers head basketball coach Mark Price, center, poses with director of athletics Judy Rose, left, and UNC Charlotte chancellor Phillip Dubois. Rose’s two most prominent programs, men’s basketball and football, have struggled to win consistently. rlahser@charlotteobserver.com

UNC Charlotte chancellor Phil Dubois has a message for fans who would like to see a shakeup at the top of the university’s athletics department.

“I don’t think it’s time to make a change in the (athletics director),” Dubois said Wednesday morning.

Speaking on WFNZ’s “Mac Attack” radio program, Dubois praised the job athletics director Judy Rose has done during her 27-year tenure, despite recent struggles in the football and men’s basketball programs.

“We have 17 sports – and two are very, very important to us and our fans,” Dubois said. “That’s life in the NCAA and college sports. But if we look at the big picture over 27 years, she has (overseen) a department that has a $29 million budget and hundreds of students going through excellent training and academic support. We have over $100 million in new facilities and not a hint of a (major) NCAA violation and a 93 percent graduation rate. Contrary to the narrative out there, our fundraising is very solid.

“We hear the concern about two sports that are struggling. We want them to get better and will take steps at the appropriate time to make them better.”

The football team just wrapped up a 1-11 season in the program’s fifth year of existence. The men’s basketball team hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament since 2005 and shows few signs of returning any time soon. Attendance for both sports has declined.

“(Rose) is operating an athletics department that has 17 sports, not just two major sports,” Dubois said. “There’s pain around those two sports, and we feel that as much as anybody.”

Dubois pointed to the success of nationally prominent 49ers programs such as men’s soccer and golf, as well as Rose’s record of hiring coaches in nonrevenue sports who succeed at Charlotte and are plucked by schools from “Power Five” conferences.

Dubois defended Rose’s decision to retain football coach Brad Lambert – the only coach the program has had – after the one-victory season. The 49ers, who began as a Football Championship Subdivision program in 2013, moved up to the Football Bowl Subdivision and Conference USA in 2015. Rose said last week that she doesn’t judge Lambert’s job performance solely on wins and losses. Two days after the season ended, Lambert fired three assistant coaches, including defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt, and demoted offensive coordinator Greg Adkins.

“Brad joined us at considerable (professional) risk,” Dubois said. “He worked to get this started for two years before we played a game. He helped build the facilities and the fan base that’s so upset now. Moving up to FBS is a tough haul, a long haul.”

Charlotte’s average football attendance dropped to 11,933 this season, a decline Dubois in part attributed to games being scheduled during fall break and Thanksgiving weekends.

Dubois acknowledged the fan unrest about Rose, which has manifested itself in signs of protest at ESPN’s “College Gameday” broadcast, basketball games and around campus, an online petition and even an airplane banner above campus before a football game.

“I see the signs and hear about the changes they want,” Dubois said. “But people flying planes over the stadium to publicly embarrass our A.D, that’s shameful. I hope fans will step back and judge these things after they turn out.

“We’re going in the right direction. It is difficult now. We welcome (the fans’) participation. They’re 49ers. They’re passionate.”

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