Friday, April 27, 2012

Conference news could come soon for Charlotte 49ers

The Charlotte 49ers’ inevitable move to a Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly NCAA Division I-A) conference is picking up steam.

A person with  knowledge of the situation told the Observer that UNC Charlotte Chancellor Phil Dubois informed the school’s Board of Trustees in a closed session on Thursday that a decision can be expected “soon” on where the 49ers – who will begin playing  in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA) in 2013 – will land.

That new league could well be the 49ers’ old stomping ground: Conference USA.  Charlotte athletics director Judy Rose confirmed  that CUSA (where Charlotte played from 1995-2005)  has contacted Charlotte about membership. The Sun Belt has also done the same, although that league recently added Georgia State.

“We’ve got a lot of options,” Rose said. “But we’re not there yet.”

Conference USA – which is losing Memphis, Houston, Southern Methodist and Central Florida – is expected to announce later this spring or early summer that it has formed an alliance with the Mountain West.

A newspaper in Huntington, W.Va., (home of CUSA member Marshall) reported earlier this week that the 49ers could be the new league’s top choice when it expands.

That makes sense. The new league would be heavily tilted to the midwest and west and could use more schools from the east. Charlotte (and its TV market) would help balance things geographically with current CUSA members East Carolina, Alabama-Birmingham and Marshall.

If an invitation  comes soon from an FBS league, Charlotte would not be able to join in football until 2015 at the earliest. The 49ers have to play at least two years in FCS until they can move up. They also have to average at least 15,000 in attendance for two seasons to be considered by FBS.

Charlotte’s stated goal when the football startup was announced was to eventually move to FBS. That’s been accelerated by the ever-changing landscape in FBS conference expansion. But Rose also said that after failing to find an FCS conference to play in, being an independent (Charlotte will be the country’s only FCS independent in 2013) was not sustainable.

“That is not a good model for us,” she said.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Charlotte 49ers news, notes

The 49ers baseball team plays a pair of ACC teams this week before heading to George Washington for an Atlantic 10 weekend series.

Charlotte faces Duke (15-26) on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Hayes Stadium, then travels to N.C. State (26-12) on Wednesday. The 49ers will continue on to Washington after playing the Wolfpack for their three-game series with the Colonials, which begins Friday.

The 49ers (17-21, 5-9 Atlantic 10) split last weekend's series with Saint Joseph's (Sunday's game was rained out and won't be re-scheduled), so they continue to face an uphill climb to qualify for the six-team Atlantic 10 tournament. Charlotte is in 10th place and three games out of sixth. The 49ers have time to make up for it -- with two league series at home (vs. Saint Louis and St. Bonaventure) remaining after George Washington.

The banged-up 49ers got two players back against Saint Joseph's -- leading hitter Shane Brown returned to the lineup with four hits on Friday and utility player Brad Elwood came back with two outfield assists in one game (the fourth player in school history to do that).

Also, pitcher Joe Yermal beat the Hawks on Saturday for his 29th career victory, tying Tim Collie for second on the 49ers' all-time list.

-- Next up for Charlotte's golf team are the Atlantic 10 championships this weekend in Coral Springs, Fla. The 49ers have won every league championship since joining the A-10 in 2006. Charlotte finished fourth in its two more recent tournaments, the Irish Creek Collegiate in Kannapolis and the Hawkeye at Iowa City, Iowa. Freshman Raoul Menard was also named the A-10's most recent rookie of the week.

-- Charlotte's men's basketball team will open play in the Great Alaska Shootout on Nov. 22 against Texas State. The 49ers will then play either Loyola Marymount or Oral Roberts the next day. The tournament's other bracket features Belmont, Alaska-Anchorage, UC Riverside and Northeastern.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Charlotte 49ers land guard from Charlotte prep school

The Charlotte 49ers have landed 6-foot-5 wing Ivan Benkovic Charlotte’s Mack Prep, according to his coach Will Sperow. Benkovic, who originally verbally committed to High Point, is from Croatia and averaged 15 points last season. Benkovic played the 2010-11 season for Charlotte's United Faith Academy and has been in the United States for two years.
Sperow said Benkovic is a three-point specialist. He is the fifth freshman to join the 49ers next season – along with power forwards Willie Clayton and Darion Clark and guards Shawn Lester and Denzel Ingram. After the transfers of upperclassmen Jamar Briscoe and K.J. Sherrill, the 49ers still have one more scholarship they can offer for the 2012-13 season. – David Scott

Charlotte 49ers hold football walk-on tryouts today

Another football milestone comes up later today for the Charlotte 49ers.

Although the walk-on tryouts that begin at 4 p.m. this afternoon probably won't yield but a few players who will be on Charlotte's roster when the 49ers begin football in 2013, it is the program's first "official" practice.

Coach Brad Lambert says he hopes 5-10 players will be good enough to be invited back to practice with the rest of the squad in August. The team -- made up of redshirt freshmen -- will practice all fall but won't have any games to play.

The walk-on tryouts -- all candidates have already registered, so nobody should just show up expecting to practice -- will be held on the school's recreation fields above the Wachovia Fieldhouse and softball stadium.

-- Two 49ers basketball recruits will play in the regional game in Saturday's Jordan Brand Classic at Time Warner Cable Arena. Guards Shawn Lester (Mooresville) and Denzel Ingram (Chapel Hill) will be in the game that begins at 4:30 p.m. Ingram, incidentally, will sign his letter of intent with the 49ers on Thursday at 4 p.m. at Chapel Hill High.

-- Another 49ers recruit, power forward Willie Clayton of Thomasville, Ga., played on a U.S. all-star team that won an international tournament in France last week.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

K.J. Sherrill released, will transfer from Charlotte 49ers basketball

Junior forward K.J. Sherrill has been released from the Charlotte 49ers’ men’s basketball program and will transfer, the school confirmed today.

Sherrill, a 6-7 power forward, is the second player within the last two weeks to leave the program. Junior guard Jamar Briscoe was released from the program in March.

Sherrill, who started three games last season, would have competed with two incoming freshmen – Willie Clayton and Darion Clark – for playing time next season.

"I’ve enjoyed playing at Charlotte, but it’s in my best interest to move on," Sherrill said in a statement. "I look forward to finding a better fit for myself." 

Sherrill’s father Keith Sherrill told The Observer last week that Sherrill was looking forward to playing his senior season at Charlotte. 49ers coach Alan Major also told The Observer last Thursday that he expected Sherrill to play for Charlotte next season.

Sherrill averaged 2.8 points and 1.4 rebounds last season and missed the last four games of the season with a broken arm. Sherrill also missed 10 games with a knee injury his sophomore season.

Briscoe and Sherrill were recruited to Charlotte by former 49ers coach Bobby Lutz.