Friday, December 11, 2009

FAQ: Niners adding football in 2013

An FAQ on today's announcement that the Charlotte 49ers will proceed with the launch of a football program in 2013:

What does today's vote by the Board of Trustees mean?

It means that Charlotte will begin fielding a football team in 2013 in the Football Championship Subdivision, formerly Division I-AA. This is the same division of football the Southern Conference plays. The plan the board adopted -- Plan E, as it was presented to the board -- also means the school will go ahead with a permanent football facility, not the temporary facilities discussed previously.

Why was it crucial that the vote be taken today?

The timeline for the state's budgeting and the discussion of fee increases for students requires that the decision not be delayed if the team is to start in 2013.

How will they pay for a permanent facility?

Partially through money already raised -- almost $4 million in the sale of about 3,200 Forty-Niner Seat Licences and $1.6 million in corporate contributions, almost exclusively from the members of the Board of Trustees, all of whom contributed. There was one unnamed trustee who contributed $1 million of that total. Chancellor Phillip Dubois told the board he is hopeful corporate contributions from other sources and FSL sales will increase now that the program has become more concrete.

The rest will come from a debt service fee that will be charged to students to cover the $40.5 million in debt needed to finance the stadium. The maximum amount of that fee will be $120 per year per full-time student, and the fee will be charged for 30 years until the debt on the stadium is retired, unless a donor steps forward or the debt is paid off early in some other way.

How about the cost of actually running the program? Where is that money coming from?

The operational budget will be covered in part by ticket sales and what the school hopes will be increased donations to the athletic foundation by those who want to keep their FSLs.

But most of that budget -- about 60 percent -- will be covered by an increase in student fees. Those fees, under Plan E, will begin to phase in for Fall 2011, at $50, and rise $50 per year to a maximum of $200 in 2014 and beyond. Those increases would stay within the 6.5 percent per year cap on fee increases the the UNC System Board of Governors has imposed on all schools.

Students will, in effect, subsidize football at the school (as they do at most schools where football is played, even at the Football Bowl Subdivision level), paying $320 a year in 2014 and beyond.

That fee could fall if additional FSLs are sold or additional donors are found.

What are the chances those donors could be found?

Dubois says there are millions more in requests out, and that the response has been positive. Still, many potential donors and FSL holders, he says, are waiting for the program to become more concrete before opening their wallets. The program became more concrete today.

What if the vote had been to delay football for three years, which was one of the options presented to the board?

Dubois told the board he feared a delay would hurt the credibility of any future efforts to add football at the school, and possibly kill the chance for adding the sport completely.

Another reason not to wait: Interest rates and construction costs will never be lower than they are now. Ironically, the same problems in the economy that have hurt the push for FSL sales and corporate donations may have saved the effort by depressing those rates and costs.

Plan E? Can you give me a short history of the plans?

Plan A, introduced by the advisory committee that did the original football study, called for a permanent on-campus stadium and all accompanying facilities and a fast timeframe for moving to the FBS, playing FCS for only three years.

Plan B, introduced by Dubois when it became clear Plan A was too ambitious, called for a temporary stadium on campus, at the site of the current Belk Track, and a longer stay in FCS that would last for the forseeable future.

Plan C, introduced more recently, called for a permanent field house but a temporary stadium with some permanent structures on the eventual on-campus site for the football stadium. That plan required more fundraising -- $12-$13 million for a field house and $4-6 million to relocate intramural fields -- than has been accomplished. It became clear that plan would not be approved without solid evidence of more fundraising.

Then there were the three plans Dubois offered to the board Friday:

Plan D called for the permanent field house and some permanent portions of the stadium -- mostly restrooms and concessions -- with temporary bleachers. That plan would have reduced the facilities fee on students to $74 but required the fee to fund operations to be phased in starting in 2010 at $50 and rising by $50 a year to $200 by 2o13.

Plan E called for the permanent stadium to be built from the outset, taking advantage of low interest rates and construction prices caused by the poor economy. The other big advantages of the plan were that it delayed the implementation of the operational fee by a year, eliminated the need for $800,000 a year in bleacher and other rentals, and the permanent stadium improves the game day experience for fans. It also solves the near-term fundraising problem by shifting the capital construction cost to students.

Plan F would have tabled football for three years until the economy improves, but Dubois feared the effort may have been difficult to restart at that point and could have effectively killed the football effort at Charlotte.

Are there any downsides to Plan E?

Those Dubois acknowledged to the board are that it imposes higher fees on students in difficult times, could contribute to the perception that the BOT is insensitive to student cost issues, and could influence some donors to believe private fundraising is no longer necessary.

What details do we know on the permanent stadium?

It'll seat 15,000 people (expandable to 40,000 if and when there is a need), roughly broken up this way: 5,500 seats for FSL holders, 7,500 seats for students, 2,000 seats for the general public. Some or all of the general public seats could be eaten up by additional FSL sales, and the school hopes to sell as many FSLs as possible.

Where do the tuition and fees at Charlotte fall in the grand scheme with this increase?

It's unclear what other schools would do between now and 2013 in terms of tuition and fees, but using today's costs at other schools, Charlotte would rise one spot, from fifth to fourth, in overall cost.

Also, it's worth noting that there is a debt service fee on students of $53 that expires after the 2014-15 academic year.

So what's next?

The timeline is not set, but some things we know:

The school will look for a conference affiliation. It's also possible the Niners could begin play as an independent.

A coach likely would be hired no later than 2011, to start working on the recruiting class of 2012 (current high school sophomores).

The first recruiting class, which FCS limits to 30 players for institutions starting new programs, would enter in the Fall 2012 and redshirt for a year. A second class of 30 would enter in Fall 2013, as the team starts play. After that, there is a 63-scholarship limit in the FCS, with no more than 30 allowed in any one year. The 63 scholarships may be divided among no more than 85 players.

Stadium construction would start in 2011.

Can you give me a refresher on the FSL concept?

FSL's are basically a funding mechanism that gives the owner the right to buy tickets to see the Niners play football starting in 2013. The proceeds go toward the capital fund that pays for the stadium and related facilities.

There are two tiers, Green and Gold, that provide different levels of seating.

Green FSLs cost $1,000 per seat (there are financing plans) and are generally between the end zones and the 30-yard lines on both ends of the field. Gold FSLs cost $2,500 each, but your seats would be between the 30-yard lines.

There are also annual contribution minimums for all gold FSLs and to make green tier FSLs bought in groups of five or more. If you buy four or fewer green FSLs, you can make a $250 annual contribution to keep your seats from being moved, or make no contribution and risk being moved to a less attractive location.

The goal is to sell 5,500 FSLs, but that isn't a limit. About 3,200 have been sold so far.

I'm ready to buy an FSL, now that I know about the stadium and the start date. How can I do that?

Call the Athletic Foundation at 704-687-4950 and speak with anyone, or you can email Mike Hummer at

I have other questions. How can I get them answered?

Post them in the comments section and we'll answer as many as we can.


tcollie said...

good info Jim

Chris said...

So, in building a permanent 15,000 seat stadium, isn't the school limiting it's ability to move up to FBS in the future?

Anonymous said...

could someone please explain the concept of an FSL. how much do they cost? what do you get? do you still have to buy season tickets? im just not familiar with them.

Anonymous said...

no, its expandable to 40,000 seats

Josh said...

Thanks for the info Jim! Go Niners!

Justin Ritchie said...

incredible! can't believe this is actually happening! it has been the dream of many students for decades and now it is 100% official. Go niners! can't want to come back to Charlotte for my first homecoming game!

bfbowers said...

FSL Sales info:

that'll explain it all to you!

So excited to see my team take the field in 2013!

Anonymous said...

Nice job Observer

Anonymous said...

ASU welcomes the Niners to FCS football!

Nothing beats the excitement of playoff football, so don't be in too big of a hurry to scanter off the the bowl game wastelands of a non-fbs conference.


Anonymous said...

I hope they play in the Southern Conference. I see the potential for a great rivalry between UNCC and ASU.

yizzer said...

I found this to be an interesting article.

Anonymous said...

I would like to thank the ORIGINAL CFI Founders. Without you, none of this would have been possible. You will forever be the heart and soul of Niner Nation.

Anonymous said...

What conference(s) ar e being looked at for Charlotte Football?