Welcome to C-USA: UNC-Charlotte

The eighth and final member of our "Welcome to C-USA" series is UNC-Charlotte. A school poised to become the Queen City's supreme college team.

Charlotte is a city that has always been notorious for its professional sports teams. Over the years, the NFL and NBA (if you count the Bobcats) have owned the lion share of the city's interest without much interference from a college team.

Change could be on the horizon soon at UNC-Charlotte. Entering its second stint in Conference USA, Charlotte will introduce a brand new football program when it hosts Campbell on Aug. 31.

Though, the program will not join C-USA until 2015 – instead spending its first two seasons as an independent member of the FCS subdivision – Charlotte already has a variety of successful programs to fall back on that have turned heads during its last 9 years in the Atlantic 10 conference.

Don't call it a comeback

Unlike any of C-USA's eight new members, Charlotte is the only school that has previously been a member of the conference. From 1995-2005, the 49ers enjoyed rivalries with the league's best, which included Memphis, Louisville, Cincinnati, and Marquette.

That's great and all, but there's one problem – none of those teams are still in C-USA.

With East Carolina soon joining the majority of that group in the American Athletic Conference in 2014, C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky will rely on Charlotte to regionally fill the void left by ECU and create some new rivalries.

Early on, especially, the bulk of this pressure will be on Alan Major and the men's basketball team.

Basketball-first mentality

The Atlantic 10 has arguably been the most under-appreciated conference in college basketball. Don't forget, it was just four seasons ago that both Butler and Virginia-Commonwealth made it to the Final Four, where Gordon Hayward's half-court heave was just mere inches from knocking off Duke in the national title game and subsequently shocking the world.

The next few years, Butler fell in the title game to Connecticut and both St. Bonaventure and La Salle made surprising runs to the Sweet 16. Not too shabby for a league that isn't considered a basketball "power conference."

Even though Charlotte didn't win the league crown during its tenure in the A-10 and hasn't been to the NCAA Tournament since 2005, the 49ers made remarkably large strides last season under Alan Major.

After suffering a 23-37 record in Major's first two campaigns combined, Charlotte went 21-12 (8-8 A-10) in 2012-2013 – including a 76-64 win against ECU – for its most wins in a season since joining the A-10.

Due to Memphis and a few of its closest friends moving on to the AAC, there is no reason to believe the 49ers won't immediately contend for a C-USA crown with the weaker league competition.

Notable alumni

Cedric "Cornbread" Maxwell led Charlotte to the NCAA Final Four in 1977, which prompted the Boston Celtics to select him with the No. 12 pick in the NBA Draft later that year. While in Boston, Maxwell collected two NBA titles and a Finals MVP in 1981. After his career ended, the Celtics retired Maxell's jersey number (31) and kept him around as a color analyst for radio broadcasts.

With the exception of "Cornbread" Maxwell, Charlotte's most noteworthy alumni made their mark in professions outside athletics – particularly, in the music industry. Seth Avett, a Concord, N.C. native, is one of the lead singers and founders of the folk-rock band: "The Avett Brothers."Interestingly enough, Seth's brother and fellow band member, Scott, enrolled at ECU before pursuing his career in music.

Clay Aiken enrolled at Charlotte as well, where he soon urged to audition for American Idol. The show was in its second season and really took off when Aiken stole the hearts of the country in 2003. Unfortunately for Aiken, he finished as the runner-up to Ruben Studdard.

Background info

Established in 1946, UNC Charlotte is a public university that hosts 21,179 undergraduates per semester. The school's new football stadium was recently named after Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, who made large contributions for its funding. Its listed capacity is 15,314.


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