Kathleen Cook

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.

Year in review

The 2017-18 year flew by, take a minute and look back at some of the top moments from this year.

Women’s golf tees off for the first time

The 2017 women’s golf team photo. Photo courtesy of Charlotte Athletics

The team was added to the lineup in an effort to offer more women’s athletics after football was brought in. Coach Holly Clark started laying the foundation for the team back in 2015. Starting up a team was not a cake walk for Clark.

“It was harder than I thought it would be. I think it’s super exciting that there’s something new and something great and wonderful about being a part of something that hasn’t ever been here before,” Clark said. “I love the challenge, I love that opportunity.”

One element that helped the team throughout their inaugural season was the comradery displayed by the players.

“This is a tight-knit group who was really close before they even got here. That’s really special and unique in itself. Team chemistry is so important in your success and I think it’s critical in the growth as they continue to develop and move forward,” Clark said.

The team finished ninth in the Conference USA tournament and Ellinor Sudow tied for 11th place out of a field of 60 players.

Football finally wins on Homecoming

Really the only bright spot in the Charlotte 49ers football season, the team finally brought home a win on Homecoming.

The Niners squared off against UAB and the Blazers dominated in the first half going up 14-0 before the intermission. They then tacked on another three points to create a 17-point deficit.

A fumble recovered by Charlotte’s own Alex Highsmith set the 49ers up for a nine yard rush by Hasaan Klugh to get the Niners on the board. The next possession Klugh connected with receiver Trent Bostick 68 yards downfield for another TD, bringing the score to 17-14.

The 49ers celebrate after winning their first homecoming game in a nail biting overtime. Photo by Chris Crews.

Around the 10-minute mark Ben DeLuca recovered a fumble for the 49ers and returned it 26 yards inside the red zone. Nigel Macauely evened the score with a field goal from the six-yard line. UAB received the ball first in overtime and broke through the Charlotte defense for a touchdown, creating a 24-17 game.

Klugh led the charge when it was Charlotte’s turn, rushing for 15 yards, completing a three-yard pass, and then rushing again for the TD. With the score at 24-23, coach Brad Lambert decided to go for the win on the two-point conversion. Chris Montgomery threw the pass into the hands of Klugh to successfully convert the two points and give Charlotte their first victory of the season.

Women’s soccer drops C-USA Championship in PK’s

The Charlotte women’s soccer team found themselves once again in the C-USA Championship game. After going to penalty kicks last year, this year’s game wasn’t a new scenario for the 49ers but unfortunately this year the team was on the losing side.

The 49ers entered the tournament as the eighth seed and went up against the two seed North Texas. The Niners have never defeated the Mean Green in their seven match up.

Virginia Lingo protects the ball. Photo by Chris Crews

C-USA Offensive Player of the Year Martha Thomas was sidelined for the majority of the game with an injury, which allowed new heroes to emerge for the team. All-conference freshman team member Abby Stapleton recorded seven saves throughout the match.

Neither team registered a goal during regulation or overtime, leading to the PK’s. The team then fell to the Mean Green in the shoot out, ending their season.

Yumi Garcia breaks school dig record

Yumi Garcia played her first season with the 49ers this past year and is already breaking records.

Yumi Garcia preparing to make a stand on defense. Photo by Pooja Pasupula

At the beginning of the season, coach Karen Weatherington made each player write a personal goal for the year. Garcia had big plans for herself and said she would break the 49ers record for digs in a single season.

She accomplished that goal with her 19 digs in their match against UTSA late in the season, giving her 589 digs on the season. She surpassed Carly Romberg’s 571 digs back in 2008.

With Garcia and her teammate’s efforts, they turned around from their 7-23 record last season and earned a spot in the Conference USA tournament and finished the season with a winning record, 19-12.

Men’s soccer falls 1-0 to ODU in C-USA Championship

The men’s soccer team only allowed two goals during the conference tournament, but one of those came in the championship game. The 49ers were unable to respond, leading to a 1-0 loss to ODU in the title match.

Daniel Bruce celebrates during the Winthrop game. Photo by Chris Crews

The Niners out-shot the Monarchs 8-7 but to no avail. Ryan Spaulding took the best shot for the 49ers in the match, hitting one right off the crossbar, but the ODU goalkeeper just got a hand on the ball to deflect it.

Teddy Chaouche, Tommy Maden and Marco Sunol-Rojas all earned All-Tournament team honors.

The team improved from last year when they were eliminated in the first round of the tournament. This was the farthest the 49ers have advanced in the tourney sinc e they won it all in 2013.

Women’s cross country wins title

The women’s cross country team collected the program’s fourth conference championship and the first since they went on a three-year winning streak from 1992-94. The team was lead by All-American Caroline Sang, who also won the individual championship title.

The women’s team celebrating with their trophies after their conference victory. Photo courtesy Charlotte Athletics

“The first team meeting of the year we talked about having that expectation of winning the conference championship and performing day in and out at that mindset and that level. Going in, both teams knew they had a shot at winning. The guys gave it everything we had, on the ladies side we were aggressive and took control of the race right from the beginning,” coach Joseph Lynn said.

Sang recorded at time of 16:27.9, which is the fasted 5K time in school history by almost thirty seconds and is the third fastest time in a C-USA Championship.

Lambert retained, others fired after 1-11 season

After their dismal one-win season, many were expecting head coach Brad Lambert to be relieved from his duties. To much surprise, it was announced after the team’s final loss that Lambert would be retained, but others on the coach staff would be fired.

Charlotte head coach Brad Lambert on the sidelines. Photo by Chris Crews

Among those that parted ways with the team were defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt, quarterbacks coach Jeff Mullen and receivers coach Damien Gary. Greg Adkins, who took Mullen’s previous job as offensive coordinator midway through the season, initially returned to coaching the offensive line, but left the team in February for a position at Marshall.

Lambert has since filled those voids. Shane Montgomery will serve as the team’s offensive coordinator, Glenn Spencer and Chip West will split the duties as defensive coordinator for the team. West will also serve as the linebackers coach for the 49ers.

James Adams, who was a secondary coach last season will oversee the safeties next year and Brad Queen who was the defensive line assistant previously, now will coach the defensive tackles.

Charlie Skalaski will continue to be the special teams coordinator while also coaching the receivers. Finally Chris Scelfo was brought on as the offensive line coach.

Price fired after 3-6 start

In another shocking move, it was announced in early December that Mark Price was out as the men’s basketball coach after a 3-6 start. During his time with the 49ers, Price had a 30-42 record and was 16-20 in conference play.

The decision came as a shock to Price, who told the Charlotte Observer that he was “stunned.”

Coach Mark Price leaves the court after playing USC Upstate last season. NT File Photot

The coaching change also caused to Price’s son Hudson to leave the team as well.

Assistant coach Houston Fancher stepped in as the interim head coach. Though Fancher spent nine years as the head coach for Appalachain State, the 49ers never fell into a groove and ended the season 6-23. Charlotte only collected three more wins after Price’s departure.

Judy Rose announced her retirement

After questionable decisions with football and basketball coaches, an upcry came on Twitter for Rose’s dismissal. The long-time Athletic Director announced in early January that she would be retiring after the conclusion of the 2017-18 athletic year.

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

This year marked her 43rd year with Charlotte and her 28th as Athletic Director.

When Rose was named as the AD for the program, she was only the third woman to hold the position in a Division I school. Rose oversaw the addition of seven new sports, multiple NCAA tournament berths for men’s basketball, WNIT appearances for the women’s program and successes in the men’s and women’s soccer programs.

In her statement Rose said, “This is a difficult announcement to make, with the love I have for the university and the athletic program.”

First former 49er competed in the Olympics

Briauna Jones made history for Charlotte Athletics as she became the first former student-athlete to participate in the Olympics as a member of the women’s bobsled team for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Briauna Jones will travel to the 2018 Winter Olympics. Photo provided by Charlotte Athletics

After a stellar career on the track for the 49ers, including making it to the National Championship for the 2012 4×100 meter relay team, she returned as a volunteer assistant coach for the team.

Last year Jones received the honor of being the USA Bob Sledding Rookie of the Year after making her first national team. She also collected a gold medal with teammate Meyers Taylor in Switzerland last year.

Men’s basketball snaps 15-game losing streak in senior night win

After defeating North Texas in the Jan. 4 contest, the Charlotte men’s basketball team would not have another victory until their senior night win against Florida Atlantic.

That game was the first 49er home win since the Nov. 24 70-67 victory over High Point.

The team defeated FAU 85-78, being led by double figure performances from Jon Davis, Austin Ajukwa and Andrien White. The game marked the final game for seniors Ajukwa and Corey Bias.

The men’s team breaks a huddle against Wake Forest. Photo by Chris Crews

Even though the 49ers had no shot of making the conference tournament, the game was still valuable for the team.

“If tonight is not an indicator that these kids have never given up all season then I don’t know what is,” interim head coach Houston Fancher said. “I couldn’t be more proud of these guys. We talked about this before the game, and if anyone had said to me that this game didn’t matter then I might have slapped them across the face because this game meant everything to us tonight.”

Women’s basketball falls in the first round of C-USA tourney

Amaya Ransom charges forward on the court. Photo by Chris Crews

After finishing 10-5 in conference play, the team qualified for the conference tournament as the sixth seed. They fell 58-55 to 11-seed North Texas.

Senior Amaya Ransom ended her time as a 49er with 18 points, 12 of which came from behind the arc. Laia Raventos earned All-conference first team and All-Conference defensive teamster her 13 points, seven assists, six rebounds and four steals.

A 6-0 run in the first quarter lifted North Texas to a 14-12 lead after the initial frame. The Mean Green kept that tempo with a 9-2 run and another 6-0 run and then ended the half with a 7-0 run to bring the score to 36-25.

In the third quarter North Texas extended their lead to 14 points. Charlotte fought back and cut the deficit to six, 48-42, heading to the final quarter.

The 49ers got within two points, but that was the closest they would get.

“You can’t play 20 minutes and think you’re going to beat teams in this league. They’re too good,” head coach Cara Consuegra said.

Mike Hill hired as 49ers new AD

The search for a new Athletic Director led Chancellor Phil Dubois to Mike Hill.

Hill comes to the Queen City after spending over 20 years at the University of Florida as the Executive Associate Athletics Director for External Affairs. Hill, a graduate of UNC, is grew up in Clemson, S.C.

Mike Hill and Chancellor Philip DuBois after the introductory press conference. Photo provided by Charlotte Athletics.

Dubois is excited about what Hill can bring to campus with his experiences at an SEC school.

“If you’ve worked in a big athletic department with a budget many times larger than ours and you have very sophisticated understanding of collegiate athletics, that’s an experience you can bring to the table when you come to Charlotte and help Charlotte grow into being a larger and more significant program,” Dubois said.

As where he sees Charlotte going in the future, Hill said he doesn’t want to “put a ceiling on what we have as a vision for this place.”

Hill hires Ron Sanchez for new men’s basketball coach

The first major decision new AD Mike Hill made was filling the vacancy of the men’s basketball coach with Ron Sanchez.

Athletic Director Mike Hill, MBB Head Coach Ron Sanchez, Chancellor Phil Dubois smile for a photo after Sanchez’s introductory press conference. Photo by Chris Crews

Sanchez has worked as an assistant coach for nationally-ranked Virginia for the past nine years, serving as an associate head coach for the past three years. He has worked under two-time National Coach of the Year Tony Bennett both at Virginia and at Washington State.

Sanchez has brought on two assistant coaches to help rebuild the 49ers. Katie Kimble and Vic Sfera. Kimble spent the last seven years serving as an assistant coach at William and Mary. Sfera worked previously with Sanchez at the University of Virginia and spent the last two years as an assistant coach at Liberty University.

The staff has started getting commits from recruits and is looking to improve on the team’s dismal 6-23 record last season.

Charlotte baseball adopts a child

Eight year old Xavier Clafee, who is battling a rare form of heart disease, was adopted by the Charlotte baseball program earlier in the season.

Jackson Mims and Xavier Clafee stretch before practice. Photo by Chris Crews

49ers coach Loren Hibbs said that having Clafee around sets a good example for his players.

“I think we all realize and we all understand that we are blessed to be able to be out here and be able to do what we’re doing,” Hibbs said. “When a young man like Xavier comes around here and gets a chance to be in our program and see and hear the struggles that he’s had in his very short lifetime in the eight years he’s been on this earth, it makes you appreciate everything.”

Clafee has an open invitation for any 49er baseball activity.


Retroactive: The Pop Culture that Shaped Us

Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon.

Jeffrey Kopp (A&E Editor)

Movie: “Tarzan” (1999) – This is a film that hits me in the feels every single time that I watch it. The soundtrack by Phil Collins adds so much emotional depth to the movie; “Two Worlds” and “You’ll Be in My Heart” are the definite standouts. This is by far my favorite Disney movie of all time; just thinking about it makes me want to find my copy of the VHS tape and take a trip back to the jungle.

Song: “Hey Ya!” (2003) by OutKast– The lyric, “shake it like a Polaroid picture” has been repeating on a loop in my head since 2003. The catchy beat immediately transports me back to the simpler times of elementary school; the deeper meaning behind the song flew over my head as a child, but I’ve been able to appreciate it more as an adult. This is a song that has stood the test of time and is definitely one of my all time favorites.

TV Show: “SpongeBob SquarePants” (1999-Present) –  Every generation has something that culturally defines them. In the case of millennials, that is Nickelodeon’s most iconic cartoon. I have so many fond memories of watching “SpongeBob” with my parents and friends, laughing at the absurd scenarios and jokes that have evolved into memes in recent years. Without any doubt, “Pizza Delivery” and “Band Geeks” are two of the greatest episodes in television history.

“Breakaway” album cover courtesy of Walt Disney/RCA

Stephanie Trefzger (Assistant A&E Editor)

Movie: “Twister” (1996) – Granted, I only saw this movie once as a child, but it probably had the biggest impact on my life.  It scared the absolute hell out of me, and I had nightmares about tornadoes ripping through my house. In an attempt to assuage my fears, my mother encouraged me to learn more about tornadoes, and suddenly I was obsessed with weather.  Despite the science in the movie being outdated, Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton inspire a love and fascination for storm chasing in me to this day, and it has been my dream job for the better part of my life. If only my mother would let me.

Song: “Breakaway” (2004) by Kelly Clarkson – I love drama, and this song, as well as the album by the same name is full of it.  When I was in the car and I heard the opening notes, I would immediately stare out the window like Clarkson describes and acted like I was in a music video.  This album is also part of the reason I have trust issues; upon its release in 2004, it was the only Christmas gift I asked for from my parents. My dad, however, bought 2003’s “Thankful.”  While this is an excellent album, I felt disappointed and betrayed.

TV Show: “Shark Week” (1988-Present) – Ok, so this is more an annual event than an actual TV show, but I got super hyped for it every year (and still do).  Maybe it’s because I’m a Pisces, but I have always loved the ocean, and after my disillusionment with dolphins, I became enamored with sharks instead. Due to my obsessive nature, I learned and accumulated enough knowledge about them over the last few years that I am able to take the fun out of any shark movie fairly quickly.

Photo courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment.

Hunter Heilman (Editor-in-Chief)

Movie: “She’s the Man” (2006) – At the time, “She’s the Man” was basically the funniest film I had ever seen in my entire life. This 2006 teen adaption of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” was Amanda Bynes at her most charming, the 2000s at their most iconic, and teen comedies at their most genuine. Everything about this movie is peak nostalgia and perfect memories of a much simpler time.

Song: “The ABBA Generation” (1999) by A*Teens– There is no album I have listened to and loved more in my life than Swedish pop group the A*Teens’ 1999 debut album, The ABBA Generation. Comprised of nothing but ABBA covers, I was exposed to the magic of both teen pop and disco music all in one go. Personal favorites of the album are “Mamma Mia,” “Voulez Vous” and “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight),” the latter of which still remains my favorite music video of all time. I love this album so much I can get emotional over it.

TV Show: “What I Like About You” (2002-2006)– I had a bit of a thing for Amanda Bynes when I was younger, as I simply found her to be the funniest person working in media targeted to people my age. I didn’t discover “What I Like About You” until shortly after it was canceled in 2006, but like “She’s the Man,” it showcased Bynes’ talents as more than just a child star. The chemistry in the hilarious cast and absolute lunacy of much of the show’s plot only cemented it more as my favorite sitcom ever.

Photo courtesy of Disney.

Kathleen Cook (Sports Editor)

Movie: “The Lion King” (1994)– I loved the songs and the characters – Timon was my favorite. I’ve actually never watched the scene where the dad dies though.

Song: “Come in Eileen” (1982) by Dexys Midnight Runners– I thought it was actually “Come on Kathleen,” because my mom would always sing “Kathleen.” I was heartbroken when I first heard the song without my mom singing it and realized it was Eileen and not Kathleen.

TV Show: “Dragon Tales” (1999-2005)– I had the stuffed animals for all of the characters and had a dance routine I would do to their song.

Album art courtesy of Universal Records.

Alex Sands (News Editor)

Movie: “Beethoven” (1992)– I had three St. Bernards growing up and they all were as crazy as Beethoven in this film. They’re big slobbery messes with really big hearts and lots of love. The film is not only a nostalgic early 90s film, but it hits home.

Song: “Leave (Get Out)” (2004) by JoJo– I recently rediscovered this banger song. The only problem is the real version is not on Spotify. So whenever I want to listen to it in the car, I force myself to listen to D-Money’s remix. You may ask “Who is D-Money?” I don’t know, but he should stop rapping.

TV Show: “Lizzie McGuire” (2001-2004)– I would like to give a shout out to Bitmoji for fulfilling my childhood dream of having my own animated version of myself like Lizzie McGuire. I was a die-hard Hilary Duff fan when I was kiddo and watched the episodes over and over. To this day, I still ship her and Gordo.

Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon/Viacom.

Josh Worley (Video Editor)

Movie: “Gone With The Wind” (1940)– Growing up, I first remember watching this movie with my grandma. The movie takes place in a time period that I am most fond of from a historical perspective.

Song: “Africa” (1982) by Toto– Whoever says it’s not, can choke.

TV Show: “Hey Arnold!” (1996-2004)- The greatest cartoon to ever grace this universe. There were deep moments that, when you were a kid you didn’t really think about, but they hit home now.

Photo courtesy of Jive Records.

Hailey Turpin (Lifestyle Editor)

Movie: “Peter Pan” (1953)– I wanted to be apart of Peter’s Lost Boys and I would jump off the couch to try to fly like him. I couldn’t get enough of it.

Song: “Oh Aaron” (2001) and “Not Too Young, Not Too Old” (2001) by Aaron Carter– My sister and I religiously listened to Aaron Carter back in the 2000’s. I have no other words besides talented, brilliant, incredible, amazing, show stopping, spectacular, never the same, totally unique.

TV Show: “The Fairly Odd Parents” (2001-Present) and “My Life As A Teenage Robot” (2003-2009)– As an elementary school kid I was very particular about the shows I watched, and those two were the most interesting to me! The graphics and storylines were so good, and still are. I will always love Chip Skylark.

Photo courtesy of Cartoon Network.

Pooja Pasupula (Photo Editor)

Movie: “Toy Story” (1995)– While Toy Story is not my number one favorite Pixar movie, it’s the movie that always reminds me of my childhood and brings me the most nostalgia. This movie was always playing on every TV when I was a child and there are so many iconic characters and scenes encased in it. It made childhood seem like the best thing ever to be apart of. The whole series is centered around the inescapable circumstance of growing up, and being hit with that inevitability as a child was always hard for me. The whole series brings back memories of clinging to childhood and not wanting things to change.

Song: “… Baby One More Time” (1998) by Britney Spears– A timeless classic that never fails to make me smile or sing along. I was never exposed to music as a child and when my aunt found out she started to play Spears’ album around the tiny townhome she shared with my family. It’s the first song I have any memory of. At the age of four, I had no concept of what dancing was, so I would skip around our townhome to the beat of this song as my way to jam along to it. Hearing this song throws me back to that memory and the nostalgia of what the 90’s/early 2000’s era felt like.

TV Show: “Teen Titans” (2003-2006)– I’ve always been enamored with superheroes and watching this show as a child was what sparked my adoration for them. While Wonder Woman and Batman have been my core favorites for most of my life, the Teen Titans were my first love. I used to feel very vulnerable and helpless as a child, but watching teen superheroes kick ass gave me hope to one day be as strong and brave as they are. They were who I looked up to and idolized.

Photo courtesy of New Line Cinema/Warner Home Video.

Leysha Caraballo (Photo Editor)

Movie: “Elf” (2003)– Watching “Elf” every Christmas season with my family was one of my favorite traditions growing up. Will Ferrell is so over the top ridiculous, as usual, but in a heartwarming way in this movie.

Song: “Numb” (2003) by Linkin Park– Linkin Park’s “Numb” showed me that music didn’t have to fit the pop music mold. I may have been a bit melodramatic, but I connected to the sound and message of the music. They were my absolute favorite band throughout my adolescence.

TV Show: “That’s So Raven” (2003-2007)– This show never got old for me, to the point where I watched multiple all-day marathons. Raven had sass, attitude and confidence – all of my favorite things!

Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon/Viacom.

Mia Shelton (Opinion Editor)

Movie: Seventeen Again” (2000)– Not the one with Zac Efron, but the one with Tia and Tamera Mowry. I loved this movie because it was a unique and fun concept; grandparents using soap that their grandson accidently spilled his science experiment on that makes them seventeen again was fun to watch. I also love Tia and Tamera and seeing them on television and acting started my passion for acting. Also the grandfather is very cute when he turns seventeen.

Song: Circle of Life” (2004) by the Disney Channel Circle of Stars– I loved it because it had all of my favorite actors and actresses sing in the song like Raven Symone, Christy Carlson Romano, Hilary Duff, Tahj Mowrey and many more. Hearing their unique voices combined on one of Disney’s greatest song from its most notorious movie was very moving and fun to sing along to.

TV Show: Kenan and Kel” (1996-2000)– I loved this show, because they always made laugh. Kel’s obsession with orange soda and Kenan’s elaborate plans to make money made my stomach hurt from laughing.

Photo courtesy of Reprise Records.

Emily Hickey (Managing Editor)

Movie: “The Wizard of Oz” (1939)– When I was four, I watched it every day for a year and insisted that my mom dress me up in my Dorothy dress and put my hair in the two braids. Every time I watch it now I am reminded of my childhood love for the movie and for the amazing soundtrack (that I still know by heart).

Song: “Landslide” (1975) by Fleetwood Mac– My aunt used to burn her favorite songs onto CD’s and give them to my mom, and as soon as my sisters and I listened to “Landslide,” it was immediately our favorite song and has been throughout our lives. When I was three, I put on a performance of the song in front of all of my extended family.

TV Show: “Ghost Whisperer” (2005-2010)– Starting in elementary school, every Friday my dad and I would watch the new episode aired at 8 p.m. Despite after a few years it scared me too much to continue watching it, it’s still my favorite because of the time spent with my dad.

Photo courtesy of Lucasfilm/20th Century Fox.

Daniel Head (Technical Director)

Movie: “Star Wars: A New Hope” (1977)– Duh! I watched this movie and fell in love with the “Star Wars” universe. I was obsessed with the idea of intergalactic travel and warfare, and loved the characters. Everything about the movie was great to me, and I’m still obsessed with “Star Wars.”

Song: “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” (2005) by Panic! At the Disco– I loved the sound song, and pretty much all of my friends did too. Just singing along with all my friends makes it memorable.

TV Show: “Stargate SG-1” (1997-2007)– I grew up with it and, again, I was obsessed with science fiction and the characters. I think that just the depth of the characters and the universe was enough to make me look forward to next week’s episode; to see some awesome new world, new alien race, or new piece of technology. A good plot was just the cherry on top for me back then.

Photo courtesy of Disney.

Angie Baquedano (Assistant Lifestyle Editor)

Movie: “Hercules” (1997)– I love Disney and I practically grew up on it, and when they introduced the movie they brought in my love for Greek mythology. The music was exceptional and I had the BIGGEST crush on Hercules (or should I say HUNK-ules).

Song: “Jailhouse Rock” (1957) by Elvis– I’ve had this really weird obsession with him since I was a kid. I can’t explain why or how this happened, but it did and I’m actually his wife, so…surprise.

TV Show: “Rocket Power,” (1999-2004) “Cat Dog” (1998-2005) and “Hey Arnold!” (1996-2004)– It might be impossible for me to choose just one for this. Apart from being a Disney kid, I was definitely a Nickelodeon child.

Album art courtesy of RCA Records/Columbia Records.

Madison Dobrzenski (Assistant Opinion Editor)

Movie: “The Ultimate Christmas Present” (2000)– I loved this movie so much as a kid, and to this day I can’t really explain why. I think it’s just because I also didn’t experience a lot of snow, so I empathized with them? I also loved anything Brenda Song was in when I was a kid, so that might have had something to do with it.

Song: “Girlfriend” (2007) by Avril Lavigne– I used to blare this song with my friends when I was in elementary school, despite being absolutely no one’s love interest, because we were like 12. I can still throw down to it to this day.

TV Show: “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” (2005-2008)– I loved this show for a lot of reasons. One, there was a smart character with the same name as me. Secondly, I always felt “different” because the show paints Zack out to be the cute and cool twin, but I had a crush on Cody.

King of the Hill

Athletic Director Mike Hill, MBB Head Coach Ron Sanchez, Chancellor Phil Dubois smile for a photo after Sanchez’s introductory press conference. Photo by Chris Crews

Children often dream of being astronauts or cowboys when they are growing up. This was not the case for Mike Hill, the new 49ers Director of Athletics.

Growing up in Clemson, Hill has been exposed to college athletics his whole life.

“I fell in love with college sports. I discovered at an early age that you could actually have a career working in college athletics. I knew I wanted to be, I wanted to work in some capacity in college sports,” Hill said.

Chasing that childhood dream of being an AD, Hill moved from Tiger Town into Chapel Thrill when he attended UNC for college. One of his first stops on campus was to the athletic department seeking a job but was turned away. He returned the fall semester of his sophomore year and once again was denied.

However, after hanging around long enough, Hill was offered a position with the sports information office in Carolina’s athletic department the spring semester of his sophomore year.

“I worked 30 hours a week. They had to kick me out of the Smith Center because I just loved being around it,” Hill said. “My life was totally immersed in sports, that’s what I did, and I loved every bit of it.”

Dave Lohse was responsible for hiring the student assistant staff in UNC Athletic Communications when Hill was with the University. During his job interview with Hill, he said it was “clear” that he would be a help around the office.

“Mike was charismatic.  People were drawn to him and he was simply outstanding in every sense of the word.  We trusted him and knew he would do a great job.  We gave him a lot of personal responsibility.  He was not the kind of employee you had to spend time on looking over their shoulder to make sure things were going well,” Lohse said.

Steve Kirschner was an intern on the staff of the sports information staff when Hill was a junior.

“He was someone who you just knew he was going to be someone who just spent his life in the sports administration. He has such a passion and was so interested in soaking up every experience and the knowledge,” Kirschner said.

An internship the summer before his senior year led to a job with the newly-formed Blockbuster Bowl after he graduated from Chapel Hill in 1990. His experience with the bowl showed him what goes into event management and the importance of establishing relationships.

“Working for a bowl game was not my ultimate goal in my career, obviously, but it was a great start. It was a great open door,” Hill said.

After working with the Blockbuster Bowl for two years, Hill wanted to find a new job – this time on a college campus. He got on staff at Ball State where he was an administrative assistant. Being at a small school meant wearing a lot of hats.

“I think the first weekend I was on staff, actually I remember going on a football road trip and scooping ice cream for the football players. That’s what you did, whatever you were asked,” Hill said.

Hill described a short list he made of schools that, if he could ever end up there someday, “it would be a dream.” One of the five schools on that list was Florida.

During his time with Ball State, an entry-level marketing position opened in Gainesville. He applied, got the job, packed up and moved to the Sunshine State. He remained an employee of Florida’s Athletic Department for the next 25 years.

Among many of his responsibilities with the Gators was the men’s tennis administrator. Bryan Shelton, the men’s tennis coach at Florida had nothing but high praise for Hill.

“I believe having Mike as a boss has made me a better coach and a person. He has the ability to positively influence people he is around. He has a special ability to relate to people and care for others. I think the way he treats people from the bottom to the top describes his personality and sets him apart from others,” Shelton said.

In a business where moving around is necessary for success, Hill was expecting to remain a Gator for five to seven years, however every couple of years he was promoted in the department, given new opportunities to grow.

“I was at one of the best programs in the country, very happy there,” Hill said. “I’ll never forget Billy Donovan, our basketball coach at the time, told me once ‘don’t mess with happy.’ He said ‘you’re happy, don’t mess with that. If you’re going to leave Florida, it’s got to be something that you’re confident you can enjoy,’ and so here we are.”

Though always keeping his childhood dream in mind, Hill said he was “very selective” when it came to applying for AD positions.

“I’ve declined most of those opportunities because I was happy at Florida. So, it was going to have to be the right fit for me. When this job opened up, I immediately started telling people who I’m close to, ‘Hey, this is one I think I want,’” Hill said.

One reason the Charlotte job stood out for him was that it would return Hill to his roots. As a kid, he would come to Charlotte to visit his grandparents. However, with all his visits to the Queen City, he never made it out the Charlotte campus.

“I was stunned, blown away by the beauty of the campus. This is a big-league university and a big-league campus. I’ve been here for a week and I’m so proud to be a part of this,” Hill said.

One of the reasons Hill stood out to Chancellor Phillip Dubois is because of his extensive history with a power five school.

“If you’ve worked in a big athletic department with a budget many times larger than ours and you have very sophisticated understanding of collegiate athletics, that’s an experience you can bring to the table when you come to Charlotte and help Charlotte grow into being a larger and more significant program,” Dubois said.

As for his vision for the 49ers in the future, Hill says he doesn’t want to “put a ceiling on what we have as a vision for this place.”

“I don’t know why this program can’t be a program that’s competing with the very best athletic programs in the country,” Hill said. “I know we have a lot of work to do and I know it doesn’t happen overnight. We all want to pick up the remote and fast-forward to the end and see the end-result, but it’s that work in between is really required to get us where we want to be.”

To capture his goal in one statement, Hill said he wants the program to “continue to grow it to a point where people are envious of our accomplishments.”

Lohse has been watching Hill’s career from the sideline ever since his time at Carolina. Seeing Hill finally fulfill his childhood dream was no surprise.

“I think he is a lot the same person he was as a student here. And that person was a remarkable human being,” Lohse said. “As I said earlier, Mike is charismatic in the good definition of the word. People are drawn to him and that makes him a dynamic and pragmatic leader. To this day I have a strong affection for Mike as a person and I truly believe in my 41 years at North Carolina he is one of the best hires I’ve ever made – literally right up at the top of the list.”

Fellow Tarheel, Kirschner, has also had the privilege of watching Hill rise through the ranks. He said what stood out about Hill’s career is that he’s been “very patient.”

“I think that patient career path, where he learned from great schools, all of his experiences are going to serve him well as the athletic director of UNC Charlotte,” Kirschner said. “I’ve known him for 30 years, the fact that he’s the athletic director now is probably the least surprising thing to me”

Bigger than baseball

Jackson Mims and Xavier Clafee stretch before practice. Photo by Chris Crews.

Disney isn’t the only place that makes dreams come true. This week, the Charlotte 49ers baseball program turned one kid’s dream into a reality.

8-year-old Xavier Clafee is battling Truncus Arteriosus, which is a rare form of heart disease. With the help of the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, he was brought to the 49ers. The foundation’s goal is to better the life of children who are battling diseases and cancers.

Although he is young in age, Xavier has already had three open-heart surgeries and four heart catheterizations. During his last surgery in July, a device was placed in his heart that will grow with Xavier, meaning no more surgeries for at least seven years.

Xavier came out Wednesday afternoon and signed with the program officially. He was presented with Charlotte baseball t-shirts, a hat, and a jersey, along with other 49er swag. After joining the program, Xavier went down to the field, met his new teammates and participated in his first practices.

The Niners lost to in-state foe UNC 14-2 the night before Xavier signed, the sting of the loss was quickly replaced by players being grateful for simply their opportunity to be on a baseball field.

“The word I would put for it is just perspective. It gives us a great perspective on how lucky we are to come out here and play every day,” Jackson Mims said.

When asked what position he would want to play, Xavier quickly responded with third base.

Wanting to size up the competiton, third basemen Mims quickly took Xavier under his wing.

The two were seen side-by-side during the warm-up stretches, playing a game of catch, and when Xavier was taking his first swings with the bat.

Charlotte coach Loren Hibbs welcomed Xavier into the 49er family and said he set a good example for his players.

“I think we all realize and we all understand that we are blessed to be able to be out here and be able to do what we’re doing,” Hibbs said. “When a young man like Xavier comes around here and gets a chance to be in our program and see and hear the struggles that he’s had in his very short lifetime in the eight years he’s been on this earth, it makes you appreciate everything.”

Prior to his surgery in July, Xavier couldn’t entertain the idea of playing sports. Now, with oxygen flowing easier throughout his body, Xavier can explore the athletic world. His father, Xavier Clafee, said that while he is still learning about the sport, he’s all in.

“He’s one of those kids, like, when you say something to him, it’s tunnel vision. When we said baseball, team, meet your coaches, for the last three days it has been nothing but let the sheer focus and tunnel vision on the act of what baseball is,” Clafee said.

Xavier has an open invitation for any 49er baseball activity, including practices, meetings and games.

Photos by Chris Crews.

Snapping into Spring

Players stretch out prior to spring practices. Photo by Chris Crews

Spring has sprung which means spring practices for 49er football have started to crank up.

After a dismal 1-11 season, all eyes are on Charlotte to see what will become of the program. Head Coach Brad Lambert brought in new members to the coaching staff, new recruits and a new routine.

The 49ers started what Lambert described as ‘phase one’ of their off-season routine, back in January. This included early morning weights and conditioning for the team.

“We changed it a little bit in the off season, when you look at everything you did. You’re always evaluating things you did as a coach and our staff and our players. We did a little bit more morning stuff in what I call phase one in our off-season program, we wanted to get up and get our day started early,” Lambert said.

The team is using one-win season as a sort of motivation towards their early morning workouts.

“We want to prove a lot of people wrong, so we can actually be top contenders in this league,” Benny LeMay said.

Though the early mornings continue some days, LeMay describes the addition of spring practices as “definitely the fun part” of their work.

“Running, that’s the grind-time, that’s the time you dig in and show you really want to play this sport. Now’s the time you can kick back, relax and do what you’ve been doing your whole life,” LeMay said.

Throughout the off-season, a 1-11 record can loom over head for a program. Lambert says that it’s not adding any extra stress to the team.

“I think we always put pressure on ourselves to perform well and to play well. That’s what we do, that’s the business we’re in. We have high expectations for our team and for our program, our university. We apply a lot of pressure to ourselves every time we come out here,” Lambert said.

Players participate in drills during practice. Photo by Chris Crews

Over the past few months Lambert has filled the various open coaching positions on the team. Sean Montgomery came in as the new OC, Glenn Spencer and Chip West will serve as the defensive coordinators. There are also new coaches with the offensive line, James Adams and Brad Queen.

With a program that’s hit such a low last season, there was still excitement generated by the new coaches.

“That was the fun thing for me is there were a lot of guys interested in coming to Charlotte, that was exciting for me. We have a lot of positives here so everybody’s excited about coming here and helping us build this program,” Lambert said.

With the new coaches comes new concepts for the team.

“New voice in the building on both sides of the ball, new schemes and different ways of doing things. Everybody does it a little bit different. I’m excited about them as people and what they bring to the table,” Lambert said.

The one thing that makes Lambert excited about spring practice is the “energy” seen by his team. After having low numbers of active players last spring, the high volume of players that are participating in practices this spring puts a smile on his face.

“That’s the number one thing, is the guys are really excited about being out here and playing and let’s go establish something,” Lambert said.

The team has 18 starters returning, eight offensively and 10 defensively, including last year’s QB Hasaan Klugh, leading rusher Benny LeMay, leading receiver Mark Quattlebaum and leading tacklers Jeff Gemmell.

“The number one thing is we’ll see who our quarterback is. It may be different at that position, we have to find who our quarterback is going to be, we have to find some new wide receivers,” Lambert said.

The Charlotte football program is still young, but for Lambert knows it’s time to take the next steps and not settle for just regular season wins.

“As I told this team we were in the foundation phase of building out program when we came here, and we’ve turned the corner on that. Now we’ve got to build, we’ve got to build this house, put the walls up. That’s the phase I told our team in 2018 we’re entering and to do that we need to go to a bowl game and win the bowl game,” Lambert said.

You can see the team in action April 21 in the annual Spring Game.

The search for a new AD

Mike Hill and Chancellor Philip DuBois after the introductory press conference. Photo provided by Charlotte Athletics.

After Judy Rose announced her retirement from the Director of Athletics position in early January, the hunt to fill the void began in the Chancellor’s office.

“Searches, sometimes when they search for a chancellor it can take up to a year, but in the case here, we wanted to get started quickly and see if we could get it done in a reasonable amount of time,” Chancellor Phillip DuBois said.

The first step in the pursuit for a new director was to create a search committee of 10 stakeholders of Charlotte Athletics, including former athletes, professors and members of the UNC Charlotte Athletic Foundation Board.

“The process there is you’re trying to find people who broadly represent categories of constituencies of athletics. For example, we have people concerned about academic issues, so I had two faculty members on the committee, both of whom had been presidents of the faculty council,” DuBois said.

After the committee was established, DuBois turned his attention to hiring a search consultant that would help compile a list of prospective hires. Complying with state laws, DuBois and his staff had to request proposals from groups. They received back submissions from 12 firms, and eventually selected Turnkey.

“What impressed me about them is that they had done a lot of Power 5 AD searches. I was a little bit biased going in about Power 5 because they represent large, complex athletic departments, and the people that work in them know a lot about what a great Athletic Department would look like when it’s fully baked and more mature,” DuBois said.

Turnkey’s Gene DeFilippo worked with the group and created a list of 13 candidates comprised of people he knew were looking to become and athletic director or sitting AD’s at various institutions. The search committee evaluated DeFilippo’s list and thinned it down to nine possibilities.

Those nine individuals were invited to interview with the committee the last week of February.

“We interviewed them off-campus at a secret location. We did that because, if for example, you had a sitting AD in your pool, they would not want to be exposed for fear they might lose their job at their present institution. It turned out we didn’t have any sitting AD’s, but it was still a good idea because we didn’t want to start a lot of chatter, particularly on social media, about who the candidates ought to be,” DuBois said.

After the initial interviews, the group narrowed the prospects down to two individuals: Mike Hill from the University of Florida and Phil Esten from Penn State. Those two traveled to Charlotte again for another round of interviews that began with dinner at the Chancellor’s house and continued with various members of the Charlotte community the following day.

“They both have extensive interviews. At the end of the day, we asked everyone who talked to the candidates to send us a rating, highly recommend, recommend, do not recommend. They were both evaluated by about 45 people, so we had a lot of input,” DuBois said.

“After I looked at all of the input, which came in Tuesday by 6 p.m., after the second candidate had been here, I made the selection and then called Mike Hill and offered him the job, and he took it right away. The other candidate, that’s a very hard call to make because they’ve thrown their emotions into the idea of being the AD here,” DuBois said.

After Hill accepted the position, the next day the two parties’ lawyers had to negotiate the terms to the Memorandum of Agreement or Memorandum of Understanding. The groups agreed to a document at 4:45 p.m., which was just in time to get it approved by the Board of Trustees to unanimously approve the document at their 5 p.m. appointment.

With all his focus being on filling the void at that position, DuBois is relieved the search is complete.

“We’ve done nothing else around here for about a month and I’ve got a large job to do in other areas. I’m glad it’s over, I’m glad we were able to get it done,” Dubois said.

“I’m very satisfied with it, I think we did it the right way, got it done quickly. We had the right kinds of people in the discussion and we got a great, great Athletic Director.”

Football coaching staff set for 2018

Brad Lambert coaches on the sidelines against Marshall. Photo by Chris Crews

After head coach Brad Lambert had to clean house at the end of the 2017 season, there were multiple voids that had to be filled on his coaching staff. Now, a few months later, he has finally locked in his staff for the 2018 season.

“I’m really pleased with this group as a whole. It’s a group of men and good leaders. There’s a lot of experience in each area. We’re really excited about getting started with our players with our full unit,” Lambert said.

Shane Montgomery will serve as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the team. Montgomery is somewhat familiar with the area, playing his collegiate ball up I-85 as a quarterback for NC State. There, he led the Pack to two straight bowl games.

Montgomery comes to the Queen City after spending eight seasons with Youngstown State. In all of his years with the Penguins, the team posted at least 2,000 passing yards and 2,000 rushing yards. He said he wanted his team to be “well-balanced.” He also spent eight years with Miami University in Ohio, four of which were spent as the head coach. His time as quarterbacks coach for the RedHawks coincided with now-Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s time with the team.

He also spent time at Chattanooga where he became introduced to Lambert when the team squared up against Marshall.

“I’m excited to be joining the 49ers program. 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.

Glenn Spencer and Chip West will split the duties as defensive coordinator for the team.

Spencer brings 18 years of experience at the FBS level to the 49ers. Throughout his almost 20 years on the sidelines for the FBS, he has appeared in 12 bowl games. The past 10 years he has been with the Cowboys at Oklahoma State, serving the last four as their defensive coordinator. Last season, the Cowboys’ defense ranked fourth in the Big-12 conference, which holds other teams like Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia.

“Fundamentally we want to be sound: leveraging the football, getting off blocks and tackling and creating turnovers which was one thing we were known for out there,” Spencer said. “What can we do on our side of the ball to win games? We want to dictate tempo and keep them off balance with pressure and maximize the talent that we have returning. What I enjoy about this game transcends more than tackling and getting off blocks. I enjoy being able to impact lives, to lead a room and lead a unit with the ultimate goal to win championships.”

The Douglasville, Georgia-native was a defensive tackle at Georgia Tech. He will also serve as the linebackers coach for the Niners.

West spent last year at Howard where he filled the roles of defensive coordinator, cornerbacks coach and recruiting coordinator. Previously he has coached at Virginia, where he consistently brought in impressive recruiting classes, and conference opponent Old Dominion.

“He’s been a successful recruiting coordinator who has familiarity with North Carolina and Virginia. He brings experience from the ACC and he was at ODU when they started that program.”

He also has experience working with 49er coach Ulrick Edmonds and strength coach Jim Durning during his tenure at James Madison University. He was with the team when they won their 2004 Championship. In addition to his role as the defensive coordinator, West will also coach the cornerbacks.

James Adams, who was a secondary coach last season will move and oversee the safeties next year. Brad Queen who served as the defensive line assistant last year was promoted to defensive tackles coach.

Charlie Skalaski joined the coaching staff last season as special teams coordinator. He will continue to wear that hat for the 2018 season, but he will also add receivers coach to his plate. Edmonds will continue to be the recruiting coordinator as well as coaching the  defensive ends.

Greg Adkins, who filled in as the offensive coordinator last season, will return to solely as the offensive line coach. Johnson Richardson and Keith Henry will return to coach the tight ends and running backs respectively.

The new coaching staff can be seen in action during the 2018 Spring Game, which takes place April 21 at 6 p.m. in Jerry Richardson Stadium.

Football announces 2018 slate

Players celebrate after scoring last season. Photo by Chris Crews

The Charlotte 49ers released the 2018 football schedule Tuesday morning. The schedule features eight opponents that traveled to bowl games last season. The team opens at home for the first three game, and closes their schedule on the road for three of their last four games.

For the second time ever, the team will open their season at home against FCS opponent Fordham on Sept. 1. The team finished 4-7 overall last season, 3-3 in the Patriot League. The last time the Niners could be seen at home for an opener was the 52-7 victory against Campbell.

The following week, Sept. 8, Charlotte will take on in-state foe Appalachian State in the Rich. This will be the first time the two teams will compete against each other, but marks the beginning of a home-and-home series. The Mountaineers were the 2017 Sun Belt Champions and defeated Toledo, 34-0, in the Dollar General Bowl.

The Niners will open conference play on Sept. 15, hosting Old Dominion. Charlotte has yet to defeat the Monarchs, losing 6-0 last season in Norfolk. The 49ers have also yet to win a conference opener.

The following week the 49ers will travel up to Massachusetts to take on the Minutemen. Last season the team went 4-8 as an FBS Independent team which included a 17-13 loss at Tennessee and a 30-27 loss to Appalachain State in overtime.

Sept. 29 the 49ers resume conference play traveling to UAB. The Blazers were the 49ers lone win last season with a 25-24 overtime victory on homecoming. UAB touts C-USA’s Coach of the Year and Freshman of the Year with Bill Clark and running back Spencer Brown. The Blazers fell to Ohio, 41-6 in the Bahamas Bowl.

The team will get a breather on Oct. 6 as this will be the team’s bye week.

Charlotte returns to play Oct. 13 hosting WKU. The 49ers have only faced the Hilltoppers once before and lost 45-14 in Bowling Green. Last season Western Kentucky fell 27-17 to Georgia State in the Auto Nation Cure Bowl.

Next, the Niners hit the road and travel to face Middle Tennessee on Oct. 20. Charlotte is 0-3 against the Blue Raiders. The last time the two teams met was in MT’s 35-21 victory at Jerry Richardson last season. The Blue Raiders defeated Arkansas State 35-30 in the Raycom Camellia Bowl at the conclusion of the 2017 season.

Oct. 27 holds a home match for Charlotte against Southern Miss on Oct. 27. The Golden Eagles have lost to the 49ers once in their three matchups. The team finished 8-5 overall and 6-2 in conference. They lost to Florida State in the Walk-On’s Independence Bowl, 42-13.

The first weekend of November the 49ers will travel to Rocky Top as they will play against the University of Tennessee. The Niners have only faced an SEC opponent once before in their 58-10 loss to Kentucky. The Volunteers were 4-0 in non-conference play last season and welcome new Alabama’s defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt as their head coach this season.

Charlotte continues their road trip the next week at Marshall on Nov. 10. The last time the team traveled to Huntington they returned to the Queen City victorious, 27-24 in 2016. The Thundering Herd beat Colorado State in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl, 31-28.

The Niners wil host FIU for their final game in Charlotte on Nov. 17. The 49ers are 0-3 all-time against the Panthers. FIU lost to Temple in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl, 28-3 last season.

To finish the regular season, the 49es will travel to Florida Atlantic on Nov. 24 and face Lane Kiffin and the Owls. Charlotte recorded their first ever conference win two seasons ago in Boca Raton. Last season, the Owls were the C-USA Champions and they defeated Akron 50-3 in the Boca Raton Bowl.

Spring practices and the annual Spring game are looming overhead, meaning these games will be here in no time.

Pearson’s passions

Dara Pearson goes to the basket earlier this season. Photo by Chris Crews

While she excels on the court for the Charlotte Women’s basketball team, redshirt sophomore Dara Pearson has another passion: shoes.

But first, here’s where her shoes have taken her so far:

During her high school days at Hampton, Pearson averaged a triple-double her senior season and surpassed the 1,000 point milestone the January of her senior season. While defensive play was still her roots, she filled the role of an offensive player to fill voids on the team.

“I know, for my team to win in high school, I had to score – so that’s what I did. In high school my role used to be defense. My senior year I had to step up since a lot of the players left, and score,” Pearson said.

Upon coming to Charlotte, Pearson redshirted her first year on campus, which helped her “learn the system” and “get stronger” Pearson said.

Her first year on the court, Pearson played all but one game. This year, she has been a dominant force for the 49ers, returning to her defensive roots. Currently she is eighth in Conference USA for rebounds, totaling 153 on the season, including a collecting 19 boards against Arkansas.

“I like defense more, I’m better at defense,” Pearson said. “Defense is more of my comfort zone, I think offense is kind of overrated. Anybody can score, but everybody can’t necessarily defend.”

This season she averages over 30 minutes per game

“It feels good, I’ve been waiting for this moment to play more minutes and it’s finally here. I’ve just got to keep being consistent so I can keep playing on the court,” Pearson said.

With a roster packed with new-comers this season, Pearson said the group is now like a family.

“We get along pretty well, I see all of us as sisters, because we argue like sisters all the time, we joke around,” Pearson said.

This chemistry can be seen on the court because “it’s easier to talk to somebody that you like,” Pearson said.

When asked what her goal was for the team before she graduate, Pearson said she wanted to win a conference championship and make an appearance in the NCAA tournament. As for her goals off the court, Pearson is currently working towards her economics degree and someday hopes to own her own shoe store.

The 6-foot-3, size 11 shoe wearer wants to open a store that caters to women with larger feet.

“The market for girly women who wear size ten and up, it’s hard to find nice shoes. I like to get dressed up all the time, I like to have my heels. I also like my sneakers too. I want to give women the opportunity to have the best of both worlds,” Pearson said.

Her shoe interest began when she first came to college.

“I started being more confident with my height. Now I wear heels more often because I’m hanging around taller girls more I guess with basketball. That’s when I started thinking about it,” Pearson said.

She aims to start the store on the local level, but hopefully one day it will expand to a chain store. As for a name, right now Pearson is thinking about calling the store “Rock the Boat” because “people always say your feet are boats.”

Pearson has already decided the store will only offer women’s shoes because “guys always find shoes.”

Jones to be first former 49er participating in Olympics

Briauna Jones will travel to the 2018 Winter Olympics. Photo provided by Charlotte Athletics

Briauna Jones is making history for Charlotte Athletics as she’s become the first former student-athlete to participate in the Olympics. Jones will be a member of the women’s bobsled team for the 2018 winter Olympics in South Korea.

Topping off her resume for the Charlotte program was being a member of the 2012 4×100 meter relay team that made it to the National Championships. Jones’ name also sits within the top ten for multiple track and field records for the Charlotte program including 60-meter dash, indoor and outdoor long jump, indoor and outdoor triple jump as well as indoor and outdoor high jump.

After a stellar career with the 49ers on the track, Jones returned to the team as a volunteer assistant coach.

Two pairs: Elana Meyers Taylor and Lauren Gibbs as well as Jamie Greuebel Poser and Aja Evans will be the main bobsledders. Jones has earned a spot as a replacement athlete.

This means that she can participate in trial runs instead of competing athletes and can participate in the event in case of injury and or illness.

Last year Jones was named the USA Bob Sledding Rookie of the Year after making her first national team. She won a gold medal with teammate Meyers Taylor in Switzerland last year.

The group has high expectations as the United States is the only nation that has earned a medal in every women’s bobsled event since the country’s first appearance in the event back in 2002.

The competition will occur on Feb. 20-21.

Manager madness

A group of managers after the game. Photo provided by Matt Sholtis

What if I told you there was a team ranked first in the country on our campus? They can be found on the sidelines of every 49er basketball game. It’s the Charlotte 49ers manager basketball team.

After weeks of games, the team is sitting atop the rankings for Manager Games, an unofficial twitter ranking. We sat down with head manager, Matt Sholtis to learn more about the team’s success.

The journey to the top started two years ago during Sholtis’ freshman year. With a large group of managers, coupled with a coaches encouraging, they began playing one-on-one games. Last season, the group played their first game against another team when the Niners hosted James Madison. JMU came away with the win that night, but the loss didn’t dampen the spirits of the team.

“It was a blast. We had almost every single manager out there. We tried to get everyone playing. That might have hurt us honestly because we didn’t have our best guys out there. We enjoyed it, even though we lost we had a blast,” Sholtis said.

Though they are called “Manager Games,” the roster is not limited to managers.

“It’s really like the whole support staff within basketball. Not just managers play because most teams don’t bring enough on the road to be able to play, so you get GA’s, operations guys, video coordiators, assistant coaches even sometimes playing,” Sholtis said.

The team’s “designated coach” is assistant coach Andre Gray.

“He comes when we’re on the road and supports us, cracks jokes from the sideline while we’re playing,” Sholtis said.

Though the roster fluctuates depending on availability and who traveled with the trip, there is a group of five core players that keep the team together: Tanner Smith, Pat Corrigan, Colby Lewis, Jack Quinn and Sholtis.

Smith is currently an interim assistant coach and played four years at Clemson. Three of his four years spent in Tiger Town he lead his team to NCAA tournament appearances. He also spent two years playing professionally overseas.

“He’s by far our best player. He’s a little bit out of his prime, but he’s still miles ahead of everyone else,” Sholtis said.

Corrigan serves as the Associate Director of Basketball Operations played four years at Hampden-Sydney. He’s been with the Charlotte program for five years as a Graduate Assistant, Program Assistant and now in his current role.

Corrigan’s playing style is “more of a get-to-the-basket kind of going to overpower you type player,” Sholtis said.

Lewis returns to his home court after playing for Charlotte from 2009-13. He was a two-time winner of the Charles Hayward Award. Sholtis described Lewis as a “real sharp shooter.”

Rounding out the group of five are managers Quinn and Sholtis who are both students at Charlotte.

The first major victory this season was a revenge win against James Madison.

“Colby this year put up an incredible performance against James Madison. We didn’t keep track, but we all came to an agreement that he had 60 points because he hit like 20 threes. He was pulling it from the logo, it was incredible he probably missed like three shots that game,” Sholtis said.

A little later in the season, when the manager team finally broke into the top ten rankings, they had a big matchup ahead of them: a number four-ranked ECU team.

“It was a pretty big game, we were on the road,” Sholtis said. “We started the game down by 15 points, the pressure was getting to us. But then we battled back, we were up three at halftime and we ended up winning a close one.”

With traveling to road games, there is a lot of down time. The game gives the guys something to do.

“We have shoot around that night, then other than that we’re just kind of sitting around. It’s cool to get a sweat in and it gives you something to do other than sit in your hotel room,” Shotlis said.

Currently the main audience for the games are passing by players, but Sholtis wants that to change.

“Last year we had a couple of players come by and watch. They get a kick of it because we’re always on the sideline watching them play. It’s like roles reversed. They’re ripping us apart, talking trash. Any night before a game here at Halton, odds are we’re going to have a manager game. Get the word out, we’d love to have people come watch our games,” Sholtis said.

The team has been sitting at number one for two weeks now.

“It probably means more to me than anyone else. I take a lot of pride in my job and I love being a manager,” Sholtis said. “It’s cool to be recognized. I would rather our actual team be number one in the nation, that would be way cooler.”

Since you’ve been gone

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.

Rose announces retirement

Athletic Director Judy Rose in her office overlooking Halton Arena. Photo by Chris Crews

Athletic Director Judy Rose announced she will retire after the Spring semester Thursday morning. This marked her 43rd year with Charlotte, 28th year serving as the Athletic Director.

There has been an uproar from the Charlotte 49er fan base after a dismal football season and sudden firing of former men’s basketball head coach Mark Price.

In a statement, UNC Charlotte Chancellor Dr. Phil Dubois said it was “entirely Judy’s decision” to seek retirement.

“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.

When Rose was named to the AD position she was only the third woman to hold the position in a Division I school. Under Rose, the 49ers saw seven new sports added on campus: women’s soccer, indoor and outdoor track for both men and women, football and women’s golf.

During her tenure with the Niners she has had 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, the success of the men’s soccer program that included a trip to the NCAA Championship game in 2011 and the women’s soccer conference championship and NCAA tournament appearance in the 2016 season.

In her statement Rose said, “This is a difficult announcement to make, with the love I have for the university and the athletic program.”

Dubois will begin to create a search committee and hire a consultant for a new Director of Athletics immediately.

Cohesion key after coaching change

The team gathers together before a play. Photo by Chris Crews

The past few weeks have brought a lot of change for the Charlotte 49ers men’s basketball program. In the midst of exam week and after starting the season 3-6, it was announced Mark Price would no longer be at the helm of the team.

Taking the reins as interim head coach was Houston Fancher, an assistant coach that was Price’s first hire for the program. While the firing of Price caught fans off guard, it also surprised the coaching staff.

“It’s sort of a spur of the moment decision you have to make, in terms of whether or not to take the team over. While you balance your loyalties with coach, you also know you have loyalty to the players as well,” Fancher said. “The change of head coach is one thing, but if they change the whole staff is completely different. So at least they had some people there to support them.”

Support has been key during this transition for the team.

“That’s what we spent the first week after the change was made, working on them and assuring them that things were going to be fine, that they were going to get coach and that they were going to be supported. We spent a lot of time breathing confidence in them that first week, and I think that was really the key,” Fancher said.

He started his tenure with a road game against in-state foe ECU during mid-December. The week of preparation the team put in created an energized atmosphere.

“We were almost too excited to play that next game. Everyone wanted to come out and do so well starting off anew. It was almost like preseason all over again, getting ready for that game.”

During the first half the game, Charlotte came out to a slow start. Fancher described how the team was “a little nervous” and “a little antsy” which lead to an ECU lead of 31-26 after the first 20 minutes of play. But when the coaching staff went into the locker rooms to regroup with their team, they were greeted by players who were policing themselves.

During the second half, the Niners outscored the Pirates 43-19, which led to a 69-50 win. While the game could easily be highlighted by personal achievements such as Andrien White’s 30 points, Milos Supica’s 10 rebounds or Jon Davis’ six assists, a more significant lesson came out of the victory. The message was simple and was summed up well in a postgame tweet that just read: #we.

“Our emphasis was going to be on we and everything we do. We win together, we lose together, we practice together, we compete together. We kept using the word “we,” we didn’t want to use the word “I” or “me” at any time,” Fancher said.

Charlotte suffered their seventh loss of the season when a buzzer beater didn’t fall down at the University of Southern Florida and the Bulls pulled out a 78-76 win. While uncertainty could have handicapped the team, Fancher is now using that to build up this group of players – especially now as they are facing the beginning of the conference slate.

“I don’t want the excitement level to wane, I don’t want them to get use to this all of the sudden,” Fancher said. “We’re trying to progressively improve. Your bread is buttered in conference play, that’s what we’re headed towards now, that’s what really matters in the grand scheme of things.”

The tight-knit playing style displayed on the court the past two games is being touted by Fancher as the team’s biggest strength.

“I think they’re really starting to buy into each other, believe in each other and support each other. I guess chemistry is the word that comes to mind. Our chemistry has taken a huge step forward. I think that’s big for us right now. When we’re playing cohesively, our defense has improved,” Fancher said.

Though he has 30 years of coaching experience under his belt, Fancher’s style of teaching continues to evolve.

“The thing I want to do is communicate first, delegate next and evaluate last. Those are things we try to do. We make sure we try to communicate to them what their roles are, assign roles and evaluate to see what direction we need to go next,” Fancher said.

Fancher also knows that he’s not the only one making decisions on the team: he places a lot of trust on his fellow coaches and his players.

“I learned the loudest person in the room is not always the smartest,” Fancher said. “I want to be calm for them during the games. We have a great staff, our guys in place and I trust them, believe in what they’re saying, use their input. We’ve got some grown-up guys that have played a lot of basketball games, so sometimes you just have to let them play and not get in their way. That’s another thing I’ve learned over time is to not overcoach, let your players make plays.”

The Newport, Tennessee native 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.

“I understand the up’s and down’s of the profession and the way things go. I’ve been in Coach Price’s position before, I lost a job like he did. I’ve been an interim head coach before at Tennessee. I’ve seen just about everything that can come and go in college basketball so I learn to expect the unexpected in a lot of circumstances,” Fancher said.

Though he touts a resume with the needed experience, Fancher says he is not eyeing the permanent head coaching job at Charlotte.

“I want to keep the entire focus on the team. It’s not about me getting a job or me taking over. It’s about taking care of these guys and that’s the thing I want the emphasis to be on. We just took our next team picture and no coaches are in it because it’s about the guys. That’s what the focus is on.”

“Honestly, I’m worried about tomorrow right now, I’m not worried about if I’ll stay on or not, that’s not my mission. I think if we do what we’re supposed to do and take care of business like we’re supposed to, things will take care of themselves. If we’re supposed to be here beyond this season it will happen, and if we’re not it won’t.”