Charlotte Athletic Director Addresses Chances of Tennessee Game Being Cancelled

Volunteer Country Staff

The University of North Carolina-Charlotte’s football program wrapped up their greatest season in school history last year — finishing 2019 with a 7-5 regular season record and an appearance in the Bahama Bowl. The 49ers started the season 2-5, but — similarly to Tennessee — went on a 5 game winning streak to end the season, and became Bowl Eligible for the first time in history.

Despite the 49ers slowly improving into a rising star among the non-power-5 ranks, they still depend on larger institutions, such as Tennessee, to bring in the income needed to fund the athletic department — which makes it crucial for the program to be able to play Tennessee on September 5th. Without the $1 million paycheck provided by the University of Tennessee, Charlotte — along with countless other smaller institutions in similar positions — will be forced into a very difficult situation in terms of managing resources; some programs may even have no choice but to cut other sports.

Unfortunately, the odds of Charlotte and Tennessee going through with their match-up are becoming increasingly unlikely — as COVID-19 cases spike all across the country, especially in the southern region of the United States. The Big Ten already announced that their universities would only play conference games on Thursday, with the Pac-12 following suit by canceling all of its non-conference games on Friday. While the SEC has not yet decided whether it will also cancel non-conference games, the 14 athletic directors will meet in Birmingham, Alabama today to discuss what the future of the season will look like.

In light of the upcoming meeting, University of North Carolina-Charlotte athletic director Mike Hill recently addressed his thoughts on his program’s match-up with Tennessee, and the possibility of the game being cancelled. “I’ve had a couple of conversations with (Tennessee) in the last two weeks, including the afternoon that the Big Ten made its announcement, I made a call and had a good conversation,” said Hill during a recent interview with ESPN Radio. “Obviously I’ve got a lot of friends in the SEC and I think it’s pretty well-documented publicly that the SEC’s not made a decision on what it’s going to do. Our conversations have been positive with Tennessee, and we’re looking forward to opening the season against them, but I’m also not naive enough to believe that there’s not a chance something could change based on what we’ve seen now from the Big Ten and the PAC-12.”

The third year athletic director went on to say that the program had to continue to focus on factors that they could control, rather than worry about what the SEC will do. “We’re just going to continue to control what we can control here on our campus,” continued Hill. “That is as we remain in voluntary workout conditions and make sure we honor the protocols that we’ve put in place to ensure the safest environment we can for our teams.”

Hill also touched on just how bad a cancelled season would be for smaller programs— and even some larger programs — across the country. “If we were to lose an entire season of football, it would be a significant body blow to our program,” said Hill. “But we would be able to survive it without cutting sports. We have 18 sports here at Charlotte — the minimum to be at FBS level is 16 — so we’re in a good spot. There’s some other schools around the country who’ve had to make cuts. I feel for them. It is gut-wrenching to go through that, I have no doubt, and it’s the last thing in the world an AD wants to have to deal with, to take away those opportunities, but many of these schools sponsored far more sports than what we have.”

The Vols match-up with Charlotte is currently scheduled for September 5th in Neyland Stadium, and news regarding the plans for the game should surface in the very near future, as all 14 SEC athletic directors will meet in Birmingham today in hopes of developing a plan of attack for fall athletics. 

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