UNC official: Football fee to get full review

The new chair of UNC's Board of Governors apologized Monday for expressing public skepticism about students paying for a new UNC Charlotte football program.

Hannah Gage, who was elected June 13 to lead the statewide board, told the Wilmington Star-News that she was leaning against allowing UNCC to substantially raise its athletic fees to support the start of the proposed team. The story was published Saturday.

A UNCC football feasibility committee has recommended increasing student fees $300 over the next four years to pay for the team, which would begin play in 2012. The UNC system caps student tuition and fee increases at 6.5 percent annually; UNCC likely would need an exception from the Board of Governors for the football fee.

Gage called UNCC Chancellor Phil Dubois to apologize.

“She has promised me a fair hearing on the issue if and when we take a fee-cap exception request to the board,” said Dubois, who is expected to make a recommendation for or against football to UNCC's Board of Trustees this fall. “I have always found her to be a very straightforward person and have every confidence this will be the case.”

Gage, a retired broadcasting executive in Wilmington, confirmed the call. “Anything the school brings to us will be reviewed thoroughly,” she said.

Approval of the student-fee increase is critical to the football program. A UNCC feasibility study projected that student fees would account for two-thirds of the money each year needed to pay for the sport.

“There's a lot hanging on the student fee part of this,” said associate athletic director Darin Spease, who helped put together the figures.

If Dubois and the UNCC's trustees approve football, Dubois would submit the proposal to UNC president Erskine Bowles, who would make a recommendation to the Board of Governors. Bowles declined to comment on UNCC football or the fee-cap exception. Gage and other members of Board of Governors also declined to comment or did not return messages left by the Observer.

Dubois, who said he could not “imagine any revenue scenario without a significant student fee,” said he has not talked about a fee-cap exception with Bowles. He has, however, informed the Board of Governors' finance committee that UNCC would likely seek the exception if it moves forward with football.

UNCC would be the first school to request such an exemption since the fee cap was adopted in 2006.