Charlotte 49ers football history actually began at a different location with a school name and nickname

By Richard Walker

For years, Charlotte 49ers fans clamored for a football program.

That dream wasn’t realized until 2013.

But the real start of the school’s football program happened many years earlier – in the falls of 1946, 1947 and 1948 – at a school that had a different location and name.

When the Charlotte Center of the University of North Carolina – called CCUNC – opened in the fall of 1946, it was located in classrooms at old Charlotte Central High School (now where Central Piedmont Community College is located) and classes were held at night.

Because of the time of the college’s classes, the teams were nicknamed “Owls.”

The first Charlotte Owls football coach Art Deremer also played for the Charlotte Clippers semipro football team.

In the fall of 1946, the college had 279 total students, of which 210 were veterans of the recently-ended World War II who were using the G.I. bill to get their educations.

Harding assistant coach Pasco Gettle ran the team’s first practices until Art Deremer, a center on the Charlotte Clippers semipro team was approved as head coach, on Sept. 28.

Deremer guided the Owls for one season to a 2-4 record though one scheduled game was cancelled.

CCUNC opened its initial season with three losses – 26-0 at Fort Bragg 505th Parachute Infantry, 25-14 against Catawba’s junior varsity and 73-0 against Clemson’s freshman team. The Catawba and Clemson games were played at the Memorial Stadium that was adjacent to the Central High and CCUNC campus.

The Owls would take their first victory on Nov. 5 at Pembroke State in a 12-0 win behind two touchdown runs by Fred Boger. Boger was like many player on the first CCUNC team since he was a Charlottean (he played at Central High) and was a World War II veteran.

Future Appalachian State player and longtime South Mecklenburg coach and athletic director Fred Boger scored the first touchdown in Charlotte Owls history.

Pembroke State cancelled their game at Charlotte scheduled for Nov. 9 before CCUNC lost 26-20 to the Davidson junior varsity and beat Belmont Abbey 6-0 on Nov. 20 at Gastonia High School to finish with a 2-4 record.

Joining fullback Boger in the starting lineup for the Owls during the season were ends Carroll York, Willie Wingate and Tom Hendrix, tackles Ralph “Red” Williams and Bob Conder, guards Harry Harr and Arthur Toomer, center Ed Jackson, quarterback Henry Ashemore and halfbacks Bob “Goat” Davis, David Griffith, W.P. Benton and Bill Gupton.

In 1947, CCUNC played a more abbreviated schedule with the second of its three head coaches in former Clemson football standout Marion “Footsie” Woods.

A Sept. 16, 1947 report in The Charlotte Observer said Woods’ team “should be better this year simply because the school has a sophomore class” after being a one-year school the year before.

That may be but the record sagged to 1-3 with another game cancelled and the results of another game unknown.

Woods’ team opened the season with a 33-19 loss at the Presbyterian College junior varsity, then lost 7-6 at Memorial Stadium to the Davidson junior varsity.

An 8-6 win on Nov. 8 against the Hamlet All-Stars featured the school’s first-ever come-from-behind win as Bob “Goat” Davis scored a game-winning 42-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

Marion “Footsie” Woods was Charlotte’s 1947 head coach. Here, he’s in the middle talking to players Bob “Goat” Davis (left) and Dave Barnett (right) in a Charlotte Observer photo.

The last reported contest was a 20-12 home loss to the Appalachian State junior varsity as there was no report in any local or regional newspaper of a schedule Nov. 27 game against the Brookland-Cayce All-Stars in Columbia, S.C.

Starters in 1947 were ends York and Eddie Nuzum, tackles, Ed Wilson and Brice Wendell, guards Dave Littlejohn and Howard Hailey, center Leon Kendrick, quarterback Dave Foreman, halfbacks Davis and Dave Barnett and fullbacks Albert Clark and Doug Mathews.

In 1948, CCUNC had to two head coaches after their initial coaching selection, former South Carolina standout Bobby Giles, resigned after two days on the job.

Another former Gamecocks’ standout and 1945 halfback for the old Chicago Cardinals Carol “Hal” Blackwell was hired to replace Giles on Aug. 28.

Blackwell guided the final CCUNC team to an 0-5 record that included road losses at Albemarle High School and against the junior varsity teams of Appalachian State and Wofford and home games played at Harding High’s Richard Field against the Catawba and Lenoir-Rhyne junior varsity teams.

Here’s a Sept. 17, 1946 clipping from The Charlotte News on the first-ever Charlotte Owls football practice session.

Starters in 1948 were ends Teague (first name unavailable), R.E. Ford and Ray Kissiah, tackles Wilson and Buddy “Bulldog” Drummond, guards Wendell, Johnny Tallent and Franklin Duncan, center Worth (first name unavailable), quarterback Ralph Adkins, fullback Davis and halfbacks Hugh Duncan, Gus Gabriel, Bill Cox, Dave Cash and Jack Mock.

In 1949 after state funding slowed, the city school district took over the school and renamed it Charlotte College. But a drop in enrollment meant the end of the football program.

In 1958, the school joined the North Carolina Community College system and moved to its current location in 1961.

In 1963, the school became a four-year senior college and in 1965, it adopted the name (UNC Charlotte) it has had ever since.


CCUNC football scores (1946-48)

1946 (2-4)
Oct. 12 at Fort Bragg 505th Parachute Infantry Lost 0-26
Oct. 15 Catawba JV (at Memorial Stadium) Lost 14-25
Oct. 19 Clemson JV (at Memorial Stadium) Lost 0-73
Nov. 5 at Pembroke State Won 12-0
Nov. 9 Pembroke State (at Memorial Stadium) Cancelled
Nov. 15 at Davidson JV Lost 20-26
Nov. 20 Belmont Abbey (at Gastonia HS) W 6-0

Leading scorers:
Fred Boger 5 TDs, 1 XP (31 points)
Bob “Goat” Davis 1 TD (6 points)
Bob Conder 1 TD (6 points)
Tom Hendrix 1 TD (6 points)
Davis also threw 2 TD passes

1947 (1-3)
Oct. 15 at Presbyterian JV Lost 19-33
Oct. 23 at Catawba JV Cancelled
Nov. 1 Davidson JV (at Memorial Stadium) Lost 6-7
Nov. 8 at Hamlet All-Stars Won 8-6
Nov. 12 Appalachian State JV (at Memorial Stadium) Lost 12-20
Nov. 27 Brookland Cayce All-Stars (at Columbia, S.C.) No result

Leading scorers:
Bob “Goat” Davis 4 TDs, 1 XP (25 points)
Carroll York 2 TDs, 1 safety (14 points)
Dave Foreman 1 TD (6 points)
Davis also threw 2 TD passes

1948 (0-5)
Sept. 17 at Albemarle HS Lost 0-8
Sept. 25 at Appalachian State JV Lost 0-20
Oct. 7 Lenoir-Rhyne JV (at Richard Field) Lost 12-25
Oct. 15 at Wofford JV Lost 0-38
Oct. 28 Catawba JV (at Richard Field) Lost 2-27

Leading scorers:
Bob “Goat” Davis 1 TD (6 points)
Bill Cox 1 TD (6 points)
Roy Kissiah 1 safety (2 points)
Ralph Adkins threw 2 TD passes