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In 1946 a small start-up school had aspirations to play football. That school was “Charlotte”, although not the Charlotte we know and love today. It wasn't even Charlotte College or UNCC. Then it was called Center Charlotte of the University of North Carolina (CCUNC).
If history tells us anything, Charlotte has always been a persistent University. Finding ways to grow and establish ourselves as elite. Although our school was formed in 1946, we tried to establish ourselves as far back as the late 1880's when we made an attempt to be North Carolina State before it was granted to Raleigh. Fast forward 60 years, Charlotte started CCUNC, focusing on educating soldiers returning from WWII. Classes were held at Central High School, so all classes took place at night once the high school students left for the day. In 1946 the enrollment was just under 300 students.
What's amazing is that at a time where funds were nonexistent , students were minimal and the start-up university didn't know if they'd exist in years to come, 22 students still managed to start the school's FIRST athletic program: a Football team. And they weren't called the 49ers, they were nicknamed the “Owls” in the spirit of the school operating at night.
The Owls were never a powerhouse, finishing 2-6, winning against Pembroke State (Now UNC Pembroke, who will replay that game in 2013) and Belmont Abbey. Charlotte played their home games at Memorial Stadium, which is located near Central High School.
In 1948, the University went through several changes. Fewer World War II veterans were enrolling in college and with the state closing more “post war” centers, the future of the university was uncertain. The Owls football program ended after three seasons concluding after the 1948 season. In 1949, the university was taken over by the city and called Charlotte College, and then became state supported (UNC) in 1958.
In a recent article, one of the members of that 1946 team visited the current 49ers football team by the name of Carroll York. It was noted that there wasn't a lot of documentation available, however, the student newspaper covered the 1947 team with rosters and schedules.
What's surreal is that York was part of the 15,000 people in attendance of the spring game, and will be in the stands on August 31, 2013 to watch Charlotte's first football season take place in nearly 70 years later. The link between the two teams is there, but in fact, these teams are distant and different. However, there is no doubt the two teams share a common spirit and continue to instill the persistent will that was demonstrated so long ago.
So no matter if you attended CCUNC, Charlotte College or UNC Charlotte….we will all be Niners come Saturday August 31, 2013 when we take that field again.
Although this photo was not taken of a Charlotte Owls game, it is what it looked like in 1946. Photo Credit: CMHPF.org
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