New Charlotte 49ers AD Sitting On A Gold Mine
CHARLOTTE, NC — This has been a turbulent year for UNC Charlotte athletics.
The 49ers suffered through a 1-11 football season. They also lost a big name basketball coach. And long-time athletic director Judy Rose decided to step down.
Tonight i have an exclusive interview the new Niner AD. We talked about what it will take to turn things around.
“This is a fantastic opportunity,” says new Charlotte 49ers Athletic Director Mike Hill. “Everybody that I talked to in college athletics who knew about this place said, Mike, that is a gold mine.”
Hill is now the head miner, tasked with helping the Charlotte 49ers strike golden days.
The Clemson, South Carolina native has Charlotte roots, visiting his grandparents the Queen City often as a child.
“Absolutely feels like coming back home,” says Hill. “And it’s really special.”
The UNC-Chapel Hill grad spent more than twenty years in the athletic department at the University of Florida.
He has his work cut out for him. The 49er football team was 1-11 in just their fifth season of existence, leaving too many seats empty on Saturdays.
“We have high expectations every day we walk in here,” says Head Coach Brad Lambert. “And that’s kind of the phase that we’ve entered now. We’re out of the ‘start up’ phase, and into the new phase.”
Men’s basketball coach, and former NBA star, Mark Price was fired mid-season.
And Judy Rose decided to step down after 43 years at the university, under fire from a vocal student body.
UNC Charlotte has a rich sports history, especially on the court. The 49ers made it to the NCAA Tournament Final Four in 1977.
And there is lots of potential. With a picturesque campus, top end facilities and a growing student body and alumni base.
“I think it’s going to take some wins,” says alum Marlon Thomas, who played basketball for UNCC in the mid 90’s. “It’s going to take some electricity to get the fans to come back. And it is. It’s a great arena. Some great facilities here. So it’s no reason why, you know, we shouldn’t be in the upper echelon in Conference USA.”
The secret for future success won’t just be measured in wins. Although those will help!
“We’ve got to invest in our students,” says Hill. “And the students, also in return, have to be committed to supporting the program. But we’ve got to give them and experience that makes them want to come.”
Branding is another issue for the university. The athletic department uses Charlotte 49ers. There are some students and alums who would like the school to change from UNC Charlotte to Charlotte University.