Despite the 49ers dominating first win, many students did not request all the available student tickets for the Chowan game and some have left the stadium early during both games. Is this a cause for concern, or just growing pains?
It is easy to have a negative mindset about UNC Charlotte, even as a student. A disappointment here, a slight mishap there: it’s become too easy to criticize the way things are done around the university.
And the biggest cause for conversation and controversy this year at UNC Charlotte has been football.
Since the inaugural football game, many complaints or grievances with either the Charlotte Athletics department or with fellow students are a little naïve. These first two games have been a lively start for the team, and a reason for celebration for students, alumni and Charlotte area fans.
On Aug. 31, Charlotte 49ers football made headlines across the state, and even across the nation after dominating the Campbell Camels 52-7. And after pummeling the Chowan Hawks by a score of 47-7 this past Saturday, the Charlotte 49ers football team once again has shown they might be a force to be reckoned with.
However, off the field, controversy over the student lottery, Niner Nation Gold points and student ticket priority sparked. Other smaller nuisances have been brought up, ranging from WCCB’s television coverage of the inaugural game, to student attendance, to in-game graphics, sound and other problems.
It’s easy to talk, but it’s hard to actually take a minute to step back from initial disappointment and see that this is the first season for the team. Mistakes will be made, but they will also be learned from.
As various sports teams across the area have not been extremely successful the past few years, Charlotte area sports fans tend to fall into the “fair-weather fan” classification.
Niners fans, at least for the first game, seem to stick around when the weather is right and the game is gritty.
Many students left during halftime of the first game ever for the 49ers football team. When students began leaving the first ever Charlotte 49ers football game, needless to say, it was a disappointment. But the more I spoke to my peers about it throughout the week following the game, the more I understood why some fans left.
The brief downpour, the humid atmosphere and the huge lead by the 49ers made it easy for students to decide to leave the game early. And it didn’t help that many of them were intoxicated from tailgating.
The game against Chowan was a little better with students sticking around, thanks to more cloud cover and more tolerable weather conditions. Still, many students (particularly students who were seated at the end zone of the field) left once halftime arrived again for this game.
I was fine. I had not and still have not participated in any tailgating activities. I had a plentiful breakfast, a nice Sprite and a hat to prevent most of the sun radiating down on me.
How no students really stick around the university longer than is necessary began to seep into my mind when I saw part of the student section empty. The simple fact is the students just didn’t want to feel sick after the glorious amounts of beer and hot dogs they had consumed right before hand.
It would have been nice to see students stick around until the fourth quarter timer struck 0:00, but devotion on that level will not end up happening until the 49ers actually have to fight hard to win up until the very end.
Despite the fan departures, initial turnout for each game has been fantastic. Jerry Richardson Stadium holds 15,314 occupants, and for the first game against the Campbell Camels, 16,630 fans showed up to Jerry Richardson Stadium. And to my surprise, a comparable number of 16,598 fans came for Saturday’s game against Chowan.
Student tickets for the Chowan game did not go to lottery like the inaugural game. After the 52-7 blowout, my hopes were high for students to request all, if not more than all of the 7,500 student tickets available for the game, despite it being the second game of the first season and not the historical first one.
With the exception of the Campbell game, the request period for student tickets begins the Sunday before the game at 8 a.m. and ends Tuesday at 8 a.m.
At the end of the claim period on Tuesday, Sept. 3 at 8 a.m., only around 4,000 of the 7,500 student tickets had been claimed. In a university of over 25,000 students, only 4,000 requested tickets.
The request period may not be evident or embedded in students’ brains yet, as the only reminder for the open request period comes through Charlotte 49ers social media accounts and other UNC Charlotte related pages that help spread the word.
The amount of tickets requested began to turn around as the week went along. According to Charlotte Observer’s David Scott, about 7,000 of the 7,500 available student tickets had been taken by Friday afternoon.
My initial disappointment had curtailed. Students may not have initially requested tickets, but they eventually claimed their ticket once word hit that the tickets would be on sale to the general public on Thursday. But the fact remains that our student body is more than three times as large as student tickets available and we could not get enough ticket requests to cause a lottery for the second game of our inaugural season.
But recent graduates and other alumni, as well as 49er fans in the area undoubtedly snatched the remaining 500 or so tickets. The attendance for the Chowan game may have dipped down by 32, but devoted Niners (whether they were students or not) were still present for the Chowan game.
And the Chowan game ran much smoother than the inaugural game. Charlotte 49ers Athletics found a fix for many problems they encountered during the Campbell game.
The speaker system projected music and play-by-play announcements louder and clearer. Also, calls made from the officials were audible, leaving less confusion for attendees.
There were less awkward breaks in between plays and timeouts. Replays were impeccably shown after every play. New graphics were introduced on the Jumbotron during the game, as well as a crowd spotlight segment made popular at Charlotte 49ers basketball games.
Outside of the more technical side of things, the entire 49ers crowd had a successful wave at the beginning of the second quarter. And in that moment, it was evident how devoted this crowd was to show their support. Well, at least until halftime.
It’s important to keep in mind that every aspect of Charlotte 49ers football is still growing. Just like the men who take the field every Saturday, the university has to practice, get used to a routine and get acquainted with the new atmosphere.
The Charlotte 49ers fans are loud, excited and proud of their football team despite the little hiccups that may occur along the way.