Seeking the "best promise for the future," the Charlotte 49ers are moving to Conference USA.
In a press conference held on-campus in the Student Union on May 4, UNC Chancellor Philip Dubois announced to a boisterous throng of students, alumni, faculty, staff and friends that the University has accepted an invitation to join Conference USA, in all sports, beginning in the 2013-14 academic year.
"The invitation to join Conference USA is momentous in what it can do for our University," Dubois said. "As stewards of this University, it is incumbent upon us to provide the best leadership for today and the best promise for tomorrow. We have the unique opportunity to become one of the first programs in history to go from no football to FBS football in the minimum time allowed by NCAA regulations."
Conference USA is an FBS Conference that will provide a home for all 17 of the 49ers sports, including football. The 49ers football team will enjoy its inaugural season in 2013 as an independent FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) program and will compete in its first FBS season in Conference USA in 2015. Charlotte will be bowl eligible for football in the 2016 season. Each of the 49ers other 16 sports will begin play in Conference USA in 2013-14.
"In adding football, it was imperative that we find a conference to compete in – and today we struck gold," said Director of Athletics Judy Rose. "We not only found a conference to play in – we found an FBS Conference. It’s a strong conference across the board."
Conference USA, which is adding four other schools, will have a 13-team membership that includes Charlotte, East Carolina, Florida International, Louisiana Tech, Marshall, North Texas, Rice, Southern Mississippi, Tulane, Tulsa, UAB, UTEP and University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA).
Charlotte was a member of Conference USA from 1995-96 to 2004-05. The 49ers joined the Atlantic 10 Conference in 2005-06 and will remain in that league through the 2012-13 season.
UNC Charlotte’s on-campus football stadium is under construction. It will initially hold more than 15,000 and is designed for expansion to more than 40,000.