Founded in 1946, Charlotte was originally the Charlotte Center of the University of North Carolina. Its purpose was to serve the academic needs of veterans returning from World War II. In 1949, schools of this nature were closing, but the university’s founder, Bonnie E. Cone, fought to keep it open. Her valiant fight was successful and in honor of the year 1949, the University adopted the 49ers nickname. Today, Charlotte continues to grow, and their football program is the epicenter of that evidence.
The Charlotte football program launched the same year the school was founded, but complications caused it to shut down in 1948 after only two years in existence. A push to resurrect the football department arose in the early 2000s and by 2013, the Charlotte 49ers reemerged on the gridiron. The stadium is named after the founder and owner of the Carolina Panthers, Jerry Richardson. His monetary contributions to the 49ers program helped to emblazon his name onto the arena.
A pregame teamwalk initiates gamedays at Charlotte surrounded by 49er fans, cheerleaders, mascot Norm the Niner, and The Pride of Niner Nation Marching Band. After the team is welcomed, the band continues their performance for tailgaters branching out from the perimeter of Jerry Richardson Stadium.
While the 49ers moniker came from the 1949 preservation of this university, the area’s history as a gold mining center solidified the name. References to its past are enshrined on campus. The 49er Miner statue serves as a beloved good luck charm. He is referred to as Norm, and tossing a penny in his pan is considered to bring good fortune. Steps away is the golden nugget. This quartz rock with veins of gold came from the Reed Gold Mine not far from Charlotte. It’s a nod to the gold rush in the 1800s, which has much history in this area. Rubbing the golden ore offers another opportunity for acquiring good luck.
Charlotte is a young football program at a university with a deep history. The excitement that fills Jerry Richardson Stadium showcases a spirit that continues to grow in the Queen City. An expansion to the stadium is in the works and brings with it a bright future with tremendous possibilities.