Charlotte 49ers Athletic Director Judy Rose. Photo by Chris Crews

While students were nestled all snug in their beds over Christmas break, changes were being made in the Charlotte 49ers Athletic Department. From coaching hiring, firing, retiring and more, here’s a run-down of what happened while you were out.

Rose announces her retirement

The Thursday before classes resumed it was announced that Director of Athletics, Judy Rose, will retire after the conclusion of the Spring Semester. This announcement came after protest from the Charlotte fan base from a dismal football season and sudden firing of men’s basketball coach Mark Price.

Rose was in her 43rd year with the 49ers and this was her 28th year serving as the Athletic Director. UNC Charlotte Chancellor Dr. Phil Dubois said it was “entirely Judy’s decision” to retire.

“I will miss working with her, both personally and professionally. Her work ethic, values, integrity, commitment to student success and understanding of college athletics will make finding her successor a most difficult challenge. She has left a legacy that will be nearly impossible to match,” Dubois said.

Rose became just the third woman to hold the position at a Division I school. She oversaw the addition of seven new teams to the school including women’s soccer, football, track and field (outdoor and indoor, men’s and women’s) and women’s golf.

In her time at the helm of the 49ers, Rose oversaw nine NCAA tournament berths for the men’s basketball team, 12 of the 13 WNIT appearances for the women’s basketball program along with their NCAA tournament berths, and soccer success including the men’s team’s trip to the NCAA Championship game in 2011 and the women’s team’s conference championship and NCAA tournament appearance in the 2016 season.

Rose was also heavily involved on multiple committees with the NCAA which included the men’s basketball committee from 2000 to 2004 as well as the NCAA Division I Council. In 2001 she was named the NACDA Southeast Region Athletics Director of the Year and served two years later as the President of NACDA.

Dubois has started the process of finding a person to fill the role by creating a search committee and hiring a consultant.

Price out, Fancher in

In the midst of exams last semester, the 49ers shocked everyone by announcing the firing of head coach Mark Price. The announcement came after the Niners men’s basketball team was on a four-game losing streak and were 3-6 on the season.

Back in April of 2015 Price signed a five-year deal for $500,000 per year when he was hired to replace Alan Major. In the little over two seasons spent with the program, Price held a 30-42 record.

Leaving with the coach was his son, Hudson Price. The redshirt senior transferred to the Queen City from TCU upon the hiring of his father. Though he only started in two games during the 2016-17 season, Hudson had started all nine contests this season for the 49ers. He led the team in shooting percentages behind the arc (54.2 percent) and rebounds per game (4.8) prior to his departure. Hudson began the process of withdrawing from the program just hours after his father’s release.

Upon the firing of Price, Athletic Director Judy Rose released a statement saying:

“We appreciate all that coach Price has done for our program. His background and knowledge were assets to our young players and we appreciate him sharing his talents with our team. This was a difficult decision, especially as we make plans to open conference play, but we do feel it is in the best interest of our basketball program.”

Taking the reins of the program was Houston Fancher: Price’s first hire for the team.

Fancher has accumulated 12 years of head coaching experience from North Greenville and Appalachian State. He also worked under Bruce Pearl at the University of Tennessee, and served as the interim head coach after Pearl’s firing in 2011.

While he never coached a game for the Vols, he will remain the interim head coach for the Niners for the remainder of the season. He started his tenure off on a high note with a 69-50 victory over in-state foe ECU on Dec. 18.

After barely falling in their final non-conference game against UCF (78-76) the 49ers set their sights on conference play. The squad was unable to find a victory against Old Dominion (89-58), however won their second conference match up against North Texas (70-68). They could pull off the Texas two-step and fell to Rice (73-64).

Football signs most mid-year recruits in program history

The first eighteen members of the new recruiting class signed with the 49ers football program on Dec. 20. The new additions to the program include 11 three or two-star recruits, four junior college players and two guys from prep schools.

Nine players from the group of almost 20 will report in January and participate in Spring practices.

This group marks the seventh recruiting class for the program. Eleven of the 18 recruits can be seen on the offensive side of the ball while Charlotte picked up seven defensive players. The group features four offensive linemen, three defensive linemen, three receivers, three defensive backs, two tight ends, a linebacker, a quarterback and a running back.

“Our staff did a tremendous job – worked extremely hard on the road and did a fantastic job finding the right student-athletes to come to Charlotte. We’re excited about the length we’ve added to our team. Good students, good kids who are going to be good players for us so we’re excited about that. I really like the early signing day and getting guys on board,” Lambert said.

The 49ers graduated 13 seniors last season including Karrington King, Chris Montgomery, Trent Bostick, TL Ford II and Uriah LeMay.

While the early-signing period has concluded, there is another signing day coming up on Feb. 7.

Women’s basketball undefeated in conference play

The women’s basketball program struggled during the final stretch of their non-conference schedule, going 1-3 in their last four non-conference games. They suffered back-to-back losses at Wake Forest (71-69) and at Davidson (68-66). They found victory once again against South Carolina State, winning 64-49.

The squad finished 2017 losing 90-74 to Mercer at home.

A new year possibly indicated a new team for the Niners, however. The group opened conference play Jan. 4 facing Southern Miss at home. After getting all five starters in double digits and utilizing bench players, Charlotte easily passed the Golden Eagles for the 66-56 victory.

The 49ers then hit the road, traveling up to Old Dominion on Jan. 6. Entering the fourth quarter down by four, the squad grouped together and brought home another win. In the contest, Laia Raventos almost hit a double-double with 14 points and nine assists. Octavia Wilson sat atop the leader board in points for the second straight game with 18.

The group continues their road trip, traveling to UTEP on Jan. 11 and then on to North Texas on Jan. 13. They return home on Jan. 20 to host Rice.

Lambert hires a new offensive coordinator

Shane Montgomery will leave Youngstown State and move to the Queen City to act as the Offensive Coordinator for the 49ers football team.

Included in his 20 years of coaching, Montgomery acted as head coach for four years at Miami (Ohio) and coached all-American, Super Bowl Champion and Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger.

He spent eight seasons with Youngstown State where he saw the top four offensive seasons in school history.

In all of his eight seasons with the Penguins, the team posted over 2,000 passing and rushing yards. Last season the 49ers posted 1,552 passing yards and 2,094 rushing yards. The only time Charlotte surpassed the 2,000 yard mark in the air and on the ground during the 2016 season.

The OC also has experience coaching at Akron and Chattanooga and was a graduate assistant for NC State.

“I’ve known coach Lambert for over 25 years and I’m looking forward to helping him continue to build the program. It’s an up-and-coming program and it’s exciting to get in on the front end. Getting in and helping build a program is very attractive,” Montgomery said.

Though from Newark, Ohio, Montgomery was a three-year starter at the quarterback position for NC State. With the Wolfpack he led the team to two straight bowl games and was named the Offensive MVP for the 1988 Peach Bowl and the 1989 Copper Bowl. Montgomery is still the current record holder for passing yards in a game with 535 yards against Duke in 1989.

The 49ers still have multiple coaching positions that remain vacant.

Kathleen Cook is the sports editor of the Niner Times and from Wake Forest, North Carolina. When the junior communication major/journalism minor isn't covering the 49ers, she enjoys spending time with her family, friend, and dog. Kathleen can also be found cheering on the Panthers every Sunday and rooting for the Washington Nationals.