Football

Talks under way for more UNC-South Carolina football games in Charlotte

South Carolina and coach Steve Spurrier will open the 2015 season against the Tar Heels in Charlotte on Thursday, Sept. 3.
South Carolina and coach Steve Spurrier will open the 2015 season against the Tar Heels in Charlotte on Thursday, Sept. 3. AP

While they continue to sell tickets for this year's North Carolina-South Carolina matchup, Charlotte sports leaders hope to schedule a future game in the Queen City between the border-state schools.

The Gamecocks and Tar Heels will open the season Sept. 3 at Bank of America Stadium in a Thursday evening game televised by ESPN.

Charlotte Sports Foundation founder Will Webb said Wednesday he's had discussion with the schools about additional games, including a potential matchup in 2019.

UNC and South Carolina opened the 2013 season with a Thursday night game in Columbia, which the Gamecocks won 27-10. The Gamecocks beat East Carolina 56-37 in Charlotte in their season opener in 2011.

Webb's group is leading Charlotte's bid to host the college national championship in 2019 and 2020. Charlotte is among nine cities under consideration, a group that includes two other Southeast cities that are either building a new stadium (Atlanta) or have a major renovation planned (Miami).

Organizers are calling the North Carolina-South Carolina matchup the Belk College Kickoff Game, and Webb would like to make it an annual event.

"But we'll skip a year if we can't get a good matchup," Webb said during a lunch meeting with Charlotte media members.

West Virginia and Tennessee will play in Charlotte on Sept. 1, 2018, in the first meeting between the schools.

Atlanta hosts a similar game called the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. UNC will meet Georgia in the 2016 Chick-fil-A opener at the Georgia Dome.

Webb said he has talked to two unidentified schools about moving their 2016 game to Charlotte to start the season. Getting those already-scheduled games to come to Charlotte would require the foundation to pay a buyout, according to Webb.

"It's just going to be expensive and take time," Webb said.

Webb said organizers get the stadium rent-free for the kickoff games and annual Belk Bowl as part of the agreement between the Panthers and the city, which agreed in 2013 to give the team $75 million for stadium renovations.

Webb said Charlotte is easily accessible for a number of nearby schools. The trick is finding teams that haven't already finalized their future schedules.

"I'll call somebody and say, 'Hey, do you want to play in Charlotte in 2022?' " Webb said. "And they'll say they're booked through 2024."

Joseph Person: 704-358-5123, @josephperson

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