Review: Old Dominion Monarchs vs. UNC Charlotte 49ers, 10/2/16, 6pm
Score: Monarchs 52 49ers 17; Attendance: 12,589
Weather: 75 and Sunny, Price: $33.50 Stub Hub (Face $35), Parking $11.50
“Easy Peasy” by Tree
The 49ers play at Jerry Richardson stadium which seats a whopping 15,314 fans. Football was only added in 2013 so the program is a young one. In advance of the game, I checked for tickets on the site and there wasn’t much available direct from the school. I checked Stub Hub and there were some tickets available, but again not too many. I was starting to get a bit worried because at these small venues, you often times can’t find scalpers. Perhaps the Charlotte fan base was much larger than I expected. With A&M playing at South Carolina and #3 Louisville visiting #5 Clemson we figured our game would be an easy ticket. I decided to go all out and pay for the upgraded seats, seven rows up from the 40 yard line on the Charlotte side. I purchased them on Stubhub for $33.60 all in. They would have been $35 at the box office, but supposedly there weren’t any left. We could have picked up General Admission for $20 at the gate. There were a couple of promotions that put the GA seats as low as $10 but we weren’t able to advantage of them. There was absolutely no evidence of scalpers anywhere. I also bought a parking pass in advance for $11.50. It put us on the “Purple” West Deck. It was another $15 premium to get to the top level of the garage if you wanted to be able to grill with your tailgate. It turned out that wasn’t really needed because there was hardly anyone tailgating. We parked on the 3rd floor which had one side open and uncovered where you probably could have been grilling. We had picked up some subs, chips and beer. We grabbed our camping chairs and walked over to the open area to join the two other groups tailgating. To be fair, it did look like there was some more tailgating on the roof, we just never got there.
We did talk to some of the tailgaters and we some more information on the school. Apparently, the woman who had donated the land for the University had specifically requested that no football field be built. It didn’t too long after the passing of the generous benefactor for football to be added. The alums we talked did say that it has made a definite difference in school spirit and has really raised the visibility of the University in Charlotte. For all the complaints and problems with big time college football, it does generate attention for the school. My son that graduated from George Mason did agree that having a football team would really help with student life on campus and he doesn’t even follow college football. As we strolled through the beautiful campus, we noted how nicely coordinated the architecture was. It really is a nice looking school. We passed the designed parking lot for tailgating (again a premium lot) and it looked okay. It was pretty small for a tailgating lot for sure. We then passed the Alumni Pavilion where for $20 you can get all the food and drink (alcohol included). It needed to be purchased in advance (Wednesday I believe). Again, it looked okay and, while open to non-alums, I am not too sure how much fun it would be if you didn’t know anyone.
From there we walked a short path through woods, where you pass another student party section. It was roped off, only for students. It was a nice set up and judging by the various levels of inebriation in that crowd, they were having a good time. Further up to the path, we came to a large statute of a quarterback throwing a pass in from of the stadium. Curious to see who the statue was for, we were a bit amused to find it was just a generic statue. On the other hand, at least it wasn’t another 13 foot statue Carolina Panthers namesake and billionaire stadium benefactor Jerry Richardson. The stadium itself is small but very nice with a design very consistent with the rest of the campus. With it only ~15,000 seats, there is a great view of the field wherever you sit. The video score board is serviceable while the two lower level ribbons don’t add much. The fans nearly “filled the mine” with the stadium at 80% of capacity. We, however, had a row of seatbacks to ourselves. I was pleased with upgrade. The concessions were a mix of brand names, Papa Johns and Bojangles, along with the common standard dogs, burgers, and nachos. My souvenir cup was a steal at $5 with one free refill. It was easily one of the best looking cups I have bought in my travels. On the downside, I tried to get my free refill of Coke when I left and all four soda machines were out. That was probably the only downside of the whole experience other than the actual play on the field. The restrooms were clean with actual dividers for the urinals – first class indeed.
The name 49ers comes from the fact that Charlotte was, at one time, a gold rush town. The mascot is Norm the Niner. The fans make a pick-like symbol with an extended pinky and thumb (it looks like the Hawai’ian “Hang Loose” sign). To be fair, it is a reasonable facsimile when combined with an up and down motion of the forearm. The band was really good, staying in the game, and giving a good half-time show. The 49er’s have sharp home black and green uniforms with sharp black matte finished helmets. Unfortunately, that was the best looking thing about Charlotte on the day we saw them play.
There are lots of options to get to Charlotte but I decided to fly into Atlanta, rent a car and drive up to my son’s place in Greenville, NC. The accommodations were a bit Spartan, sleeping on a deeply discounted used couch. Our budget at Somanystadiums.com is a small one, but we make up for it with enthusiasm. Charlotte is another two hours north and east from Greenville, but I never mind driving on fall weekends. With a 6pm kickoff, we’d have plenty of time to tailgate. It was an easy drive into Charlotte and if I was better at listening to my son’s directions we would have got on campus quite easily. There was plenty of police guidance and signage to get to our garage. In a word, it was very easy to get there. Leaving after the game was the same experience.
Both teams came limping into this contest, but such is the life of a lower level Division 1 BCS team. Early in the season, they are often the cupcakes for the big boys. I am not denigrating the programs, but it is too often the reality. Of course, it makes it even sweeter when the smaller programs win. However, our match up was of one of two lower tier schools. My son and I had seen Old Dominion play about three years ago and we knew that they ran a fast paced offense that was likely going to light it up. I was just hoping the 1 – 3 49ers were up to the task. They were not. ODU scored early and often. Their quarterback, David Washington, was a beast. When he wasn’t dropping bombs on the Charlotte defensive backs, he was tucking and running his way to big yardage. The 49er’s really didn’t have an answer. Their quarterback was a bit inaccurate but that was understandable as he was often running for his life, many times from ODU DT, Rashaad Coward. I think that Monarchs just had better athletes. In the third quarter, the ODU quarterback threw an over-the-should fade to the corner where the receiver was covered like a blanket. The ODU receiver still managed to make an amazing catch, just barely getting his foot down. I will say that the 49ers never gave up and with the beating they took, it was surprising they didn’t. It was definitely D1 football on the field in terms of hitting. Sitting so close to the field, we felt some of those hits ourselves. It was a good reminder of the athletic talent of all the FBS teams, regardless of size. We stuck it out nearly to the end of the third quarter, but when the ODU second string scored on another quick drive, we knew we didn’t need to see any more carnage. To be fair, this 49er program is in its infancy and they can only get better.
As usual, it was hard to get a reasonable souvenir. At small schools, it is hard to find a deal as they just don’t do the volume to have lower priced stuff. At big school, you can almost always get a cheap hat or t-shirt for $10 – $15 bucks. I had no such luck at Charlotte and had to settle for foam pick-ax. At $6.95 it kept me under my self-imposed $10 souvenir limit. There’s none of the fancy dress at Charlotte, and all the kids look pretty much like you’d expect, shorts and t-shirts. It was a nice change of pace from the runway show you get at some southern schools. I did see a number of Charlotte jerseys with the number 49, which I thought was pretty clever. The line of the day was delivered by a slightly tipsy blonde as we waited at an intersection. She said to the couple next to her, “Wait, you didn’t tell your friend that I wanted to get with him?!?” By her inflection, it was hard to tell if that was a good thing or a bad thing. Nonetheless, it made us chuckle.
Of course, Charlotte, along with much of the nation, has seen a fair bit of turmoil this year. At the beginning of the game, both teams met at the middle of the field and made a “Circle of Unity”. It was a moving sight, or at least that was what I read. I, unfortunately, was adding to my souvenir cup collection and missed the entire thing. I ended up watching the video on internet which is about as satisfying as a bowl of lettuce.
The UNC Charlotte experience is a good one. My son and I had an enjoyable time. It was really a low stress environment and given the beauty of a Carolina fall day, the surroundings will likely be great. If your team is playing the 49ers, I would definitely make the trip. If you are looking to just watch a game, you may want to wait until the 49ers program is having a good year. But, to be honest, we found even the blowout to still be a good time.