Niner Nation, if you are a fan of the Atlantic-10 conference, enjoy it while it lasts. This season will be the last time Charlotte will compete against the likes of Xavier, Saint Josephs, Richmond and all other Atlantic-10 foes. Starting in the 2013-14 academic year, Charlotte athletic teams will compete under a Conference USA banner.
The jump to Conference USA became official at a press conference in May when UNC Charlotte Chancellor Dr. Philip Dubois announced that the university had accepted the invitation.
The fall of 2013 will certainly be one of the most significant and memorable times in the history of Charlotte athletics. Not only will the university be joining Conference USA, which they were previously a member from 1999 to 2005, but a Charlotte 49ers football team will take the field for the first time in school history.
Due to the lack of a gridiron presence, Charlotte was forced to leave Conference USA in 2005 and joined the Atlantic-10 where they have remained. The football team will have to play their first two seasons as an FCS independent, so they will not be an official member of Conference USA until 2015.
“We have a unique opportunity to become one of the first football programs in history to go from no football to FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) football in the minimum time allowed by NCAA regulations,” Chancellor Dubois said.
All other 49er sports however, fall and spring, will compete against new Conference USA rivals right off the bat, no pun intended.
For Charlotte the move to Conference USA introduces an assumed future in-state rivalry with East Carolina University. In the Atlantic 10 the 49ers never played against any conference opponents from the state of North Carolina. Geographically the closest school was Richmond. Louisiana Tech, University of North Texas, University of Texas at San Antonio and Florida International will accompany Charlotte in the move to Conference USA and will join existing
“We not only found a conference to play in, but we found an FBS Conference. A top ten basketball conference. A conference that includes regional rivals and holds national attention and it’s a conference that has an in-state opponent to fight for bragging rights. It’s a strong conference across the board,” said UNC Charlotte Director of Athletics Judy Rose.
In 2013 the new conference will provide fresh competition against unfamiliar opponents. As for this season, 49er athletics will begin their Atlantic-10 farewell tour starting this fall. Charlotte certainly had some success and will leave their mark in the Atlantic-10 after winning 36 conference championships among 13 sports in their short time as a part of the conference.
Obviously, each current Charlotte team would love to leave their final stamp on the Atlantic-10 with a championship in the 2012-13 academic year, the last one as a member of that conference.