The Charlotte Sports Foundation is an athletic Chamber of Commerce. The idea is to put fans in seats at Bank of America Stadium, in rooms at Charlotte hotels and in booths and on barstools in Charlotte restaurants.
The Foundation hit it big with Saturday’s Tennessee-West Virginia game. The Volunteers and Mountaineers have been playing football since 1891. Inexplicably, they’ve never played each other.
So they play for the first time at 3:30 p.m. on the first day of September on opening day in an NFL stadium. Knoxville, Tenn., is about a four-hour drive from Bank of America Stadium; Morganton, W.Va., about six. Both schools have a presence in Charlotte, especially Tennessee.
Go to any bar in Charlotte, and there’s always two patrons that claim to have attended Appalachian State. One will announce that he or she went to Tennessee. When basketball begins, at least one will claim to have attended North Carolina.
Give West Virginia and Tennessee credit. Some teams ease into the season. These guys are charging in. The Mountaineers are ranked 17th, and feature what should be one of the sport’s best quarterbacks, Will Grier out of Davidson Day (and Florida), who will throw to receivers we should someday see in the NFL.
Tennessee has a very good offensive line and fans that will fill more than half the stadium. The Volunteers will have to figure out the rest. The Mountaineers are a 9½-point favorite.
Regardless of the line, or even the outcome, this one is good. I’ve been to games at Tennessee. They get football. They appreciate it. So do the Mountaineers.
Charlotte long ago gave up any vestiges of being a small town. But when you get a game such as this, it’s as if, for at least one night followed by a tailgating morning and a football afternoon, Charlotte has a college town feel.