“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?” – Dr. Seuss
It has been four years since I first stepped foot on the campus of UNC Charlotte. In 2009, the uncertainty of my college destination was extinguished when I fell in love with the brick-crusted campus. It is hard to wrap my head around the fact that my run is almost over. Four years are gone and I have no idea where they went.
I am satisfied to say that I have little to no regrets about how my time at Charlotte was spent. In four years I developed invaluable friendships that will likely last a lifetime; friendships that I have never and will never take for granted. For four years I went to class and did my work, but was careful to not obsess over academics in fear of overlooking the best four years of my life. I socialized, had fun and attended innumerable parties and bars, but successfully stayed out of trouble.
I lived the dorm life and the apartment life. I ate countless meals at Resident Dining Hall (RDH) that were mediocre at best. I spent four years dodging satanic geese and bothersome inchworms on my way to classes.
I took advantage of the brilliant minds of professors, advisors and peers, and planted volumes of precious knowledge in my mind. As much as I learned about communication studies and journalism, it is not even close to the amount that I learned about myself.
After all the good, bad and unforgettable things that happened to me in four years at UNC Charlotte, one specific personal transition stands out as the most important: I became a 49er.
Before the beauty of the bricks and the rolling landscape made my college decision easy, I had an unorthodox reason for even considering Charlotte in the first place. I wanted to attend the school because, get this, they did not have a football team.
Why would a sports nut that is strangely fixated on football want to go to a college that does not field a team on Saturdays? The truth is that I grew up with an obsession for Virginia Tech Hokies football. My uncle started taking me to games before I knew what a strong safety was. If it were not for out-of-state tuition I would probably be writing this column at a computer in Blacksburg, Va. When I realized that I could attend a college that didn’t present a football-related obligation on the weekends I figured hey, I can still go to Tech games!
I will be tied to Virginia Tech football for as long as I am tied to my family. Not much in this world makes me happier than tailgating and enjoying crisp, Autumn Saturday afternoons in Lane Stadium with my uncle and cousins. Despite my enthusiasm for VT football, the past four years have forced me into a realization. I am not a Hokie. I am a 49er.
I didn’t feel like a true 49er until my senior year when I became heavily involved with student media. Working with the athletics department and attending endless sporting events provided me with a newfound passion and respect. I felt a sense of pride as a 49er that I had not previously felt. I was overtaken by something that many students at UNC Charlotte unfortunately can’t seem to find; school spirit.
I am not going to predict that the addition of football will improve Charlotte’s fan base because I simply do not know. There are too many factors and possible outcomes to know exactly what effects Brad Lambert and the program as a whole will have on UNC Charlotte’s culture. How important is success on the field? Will a move to the bowl subdivision be good or bad? Who knows? I will say one thing, and that is that the addition certainly can’t hurt.
In a little over a year of writing and editing stories at the Niner Times, I have noticed fundamental issues that may be catalysts for Niner Nation’s lack of passion. Like I said I do not know what will happen in the future, but I do know what I want to happen. I know what I want to be changed.
I would like to go to surrounding restaurants and bars and see green-masked walls sprinkled with Charlotte 49ers memorabilia rather than Duke, Clemson, NC State and ECU flags. I want to see a student body that heckles peers who wear North Carolina or Appalachian State attire to class on game day.
I want a reason to pass up on November Saturdays in Blacksburg. I want to be able to experience the same passionate tailgating atmosphere in Charlotte: Beer pong, corn hole, grilling, football tossing, socializing, music; the whole shebang. I want the current football-induced eagerness to translate into long-lasting enthusiasm for the 49ers.
Perhaps the most of all I want to see an athletic department that does not accept mediocrity in any sport. This includes everybody from the top to the bottom; coaches, players and any other influential figures involved with the various athletic programs. I want to see the “winning is all that matters” attitude that has propelled previously inapt schools to a national relevance in the area of athletics. In other words, when I tell relatives in Ohio that I received my bachelors degree from UNC Charlotte, I do not want them to ask me what it’s like to be a Tar Heel. I want them to know who the 49ers are.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at UNC Charlotte, and I consider my involvement with 49er sports towards the end of my tenure to be the cherry on top. After graduation, I fully intend on returning to campus for as many athletic events as my schedule allows.
I will always remember the time that Pierria Henry stole the basketball from a Massachusetts guard and finished with a dunk at the buzzer to seal a homecoming game victory. I’ll remember when the Charlotte men’s soccer team made a miraculous run to the national championship game. When I come back I want to relive the best four years of my life and recollect the evil geese, overpriced books and controversial public speakers at Belk Tower.
When I return in the future I will report as a passionate, true 49er. I just hope that I am not alone.