QUEEN CITY PASSION: Charlotte has longtime major college football roots, but this could be biggest weekend ever

By Richard Walker

The center of the college football universe will descend upon Charlotte, N.C., during this Labor Day weekend.

Not only will three historic games be played in Charlotte from Thursday to Saturday but ESPN’s College Game Day will be broadcasting live from Charlotte all day on Saturday.

The largest crowd in Duke’s Mayo Bowl history, 73,712, came to Charlotte in 2008 when West Virginia edged North Carolina.

Since North Carolina defeated Virginia Tech 32-5 in 1895 at old Latta Park, major college football has regularly been played in the Queen City.

North Carolina had three weeks earlier wrapped up the inaugural Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (SIAA) championship.

The Tar Heels started a trend that continues to this day in Charlotte; Champions of the Southern Conference, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, Conference USA and the ACC have played games in Charlotte.

And the ACC has made the NFL Carolina Panthers’ Bank of America Stadium its permanent home for the league’s annual title game.

In the early years, Mecklenburg County’s first major college program, Davidson, frequently played games in Charlotte at Latta Park, Wearn Field and Charlotte Memorial Stadium.

The Wildcats, members of the Southern Conference from 1936 to 1986, hosted games in Charlotte against league rivals Clemson, Duke, North Carolina, N.C. State, South Carolina and Wake Forest on a semi-regular basis from 1898 until 1951.

The Wildcats also were played a role in an old college football tradition by playing on Thanksgiving Day in Charlotte 18 times in 67 seasons from 1899 to 1965.

Most recently, and after the NFL Carolina Panthers opened Bank of America Stadium in 1996 and the Charlotte 49ers started their program in 2013, more and more college football games have been played in Charlotte.

This year’s menu – Appalachian State against East Carolina on Thursday at BoA, Duke at the Charlotte 49ers on Friday and Clemson against Georgia on Saturday at BoA – means Charlotte will have hosted season-opening games nine times in the city in the past 23 years.

Additionally, the Charlotte Sports Foundation has future games, has helped negotiate a contract with the ACC to keep its title game in Charlotte until 2030 and will host the Duke’s Mayo Bowl for the 20th straight season in late December.

With their early start, Davidson has played in the Queen City most (93) and also has the most wins (33), losses (53) and ties (7).

Six other schools have played in Charlotte more than 10 times – Charlotte (44 appearances), Wake Forest (36), Clemson (28), North Carolina (26), N.C. State (25) and South Carolina (23).