What Judy Rose will most remember and cherish about her time as Charlotte 49ers athletics director are the people.
“My memories are going to be about the student-athletes and the people at the university,” said Rose, who announced her retirement Thursday. “My staff, who I never felt worked for me, but with me. Also our fans and supporters.”
Rose, 65, steps aside on June 30 after a 43-year career at Charlotte, the final 28 as athletics director. Over that time, she spearheaded the addition of football as a varsity sport at Charlotte in 2013 and raised more than $100 million for construction of athletic facilities.
She was also active within the NCAA – including being the first woman to serve on the men’s basketball committee – and helped bring events to Charlotte such as final fours in men’s and women’s basketball and men’s soccer. The 49ers have also faced no major NCAA penalties under Rose.
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As one of the few female athletics directors in the NCAA, Rose has also been a champion of women’s sports.
“She should be nothing but proud of what she’s accomplished and I’m proud of her,” UNC Charlotte Chancellor Phil Dubois said.
But Rose has been under fire recently from some 49ers fans unhappy with the direction of the athletics program, particularly in the marquee sports of football and basketball.
Rose retained football coach Brad Lambert after a 1-11 season in 2017, but fired basketball coach Mark Price on Dec. 14 after a 3-6 start, with Rose saying that move was about the direction of the basketball program.
Now, a new athletics director will judge Lambert next season, as well as interim basketball coach Houston Fancher.
Rose, who said she made the decision to retire last summer, had originally planned to announce her decision in March. She admitted Thursday that the outside criticism had a part in the timing of her announcement.
“The only effect it played was that it speeded up when I made the announcement,” Rose said. “It’s always hurtful when people say things, although some of it may be true in their eyes and some of it not true. I appreciate the passion fans have, although maybe (criticism can be expressed) in a different way.”
Dubois said Rose told him of her decision in December.
“What’s most important is she wasn’t pushed, she wasn’t encouraged,” said Dubois, who expressed his support for Rose in a radio interview in December. “She made her decision and presented it to me.”
Those who know and have worked for Rose said Thursday her positive contributions at Charlotte far outweigh anything else.
“Judy has done a marvelous job in a lot of areas for the university,” said Jeff Mullins, a former 49ers basketball coach whom Rose also succeeded as athletics director. “But let me say one thing: Judy Rose is not a quitter. I know she’s retiring because she feels it’s what’s best for the athletic program. Her natural reaction is to fight through this.”
“She’s given 24-7 to the university for so many years,” said Mac Everett, a former Charlotte bank executive who played a key role in helping Rose bring football to Charlotte. “She’s laid the foundation for somebody to come in and keep building a program that can be really special.”
49ers women’s basketball coach Cara Consuegra said Rose’s impact has been profound.
“... There are a lot of false narratives surrounding who she is and what she has meant to this university,” said Consuegra. “When you think about leadership, the best leaders are servant leaders. People who love, who care and who model that with their work ethic and how they care about people. Judy Rose is the best model of a servant leader I have ever seen.”
Dubois said Rose’s replacement needs to be somebody with ample experience in athletics administration, particularly in football.
“I think it would be pretty hard to select an athletics director who was coming from an institution that didn’t have football,” Dubois said. “That’s important. I’m sort of the mind that it either needs to be a sitting athletics director in or at a conference like ours (Conference USA) or else a senior associate athletics director at a Power 5 (conference). I’m open to that. That kind of experience is what matters.”
Rose, who played college basketball at Winthrop, coached the Charlotte’s women’s team from 1975-82. She was an assistant and associate athletics director for 10 years before replacing Mullins in 1990. At the time, she was one of just three women athletics directors in Division I.
“She’s positioned Charlotte to just explode,” said Mullins. “It’s a matter of hiring the right person and then that person finding the right people.”
David Scott: @davidscott14
Judy Rose at Charlotte
Some highlights of Judy Rose’s 43 years at Charlotte:
1975: Hired as 49ers’ women’s basketball coach from Tennessee, where she was a graduate assistant under coach Pat Summitt. Rose has a 93-56 record in six seasons.
1990: Replaces Jeff Mullins as 49ers athletics director.
1996: Halton Arena opens.
1996: 49ers men’s soccer team advances to final four.
2005: 49ers men’s basketball team makes NCAA tournament for fifth time in seven seasons under coach Bobby Lutz.
2008: Football announced as new sport at Charlotte, to begin play in 2013.
2010: Rose fires Lutz, hires Ohio State assistant Alan Major as men’s basketball coach.
2011: Rose hires Wake Forest defensive coordinator Brad Lambert as football coach.
2011: 49ers men’s soccer team advances to NCAA championship game, losing 1-0 to North Carolina.
2012: UNC Charlotte names football fieldhouse the Judy W. Rose Football Center.
2013: Rose gives Major contract extension after 49ers go 21-12 and make the NIT.
2013: 49ers play first football game, a 52-7 victory against Campbell.
2015: Rose fires Major, hires former NBA All-Star Mark Price.
2007: 49ers men’s golf team finishes third in NCAA tournament.
2016: Rose gives Lambert contract extension after 49ers go 4-8
2017: Rose retains Lambert after 1-11 season.
2017: Rose fires Price after 3-6 start; Houston Fancher named interim men’s basketball coach.
2018: Rose announces retirement.