Tar Heels, Gamecocks make the right call
Posted May 10, 2013
Confirming one of the worst-kept secrets in recent memory, North Carolina and South Carolina announced they will open up the 2015 college football season against each other in Charlotte's Bank of America Stadium.
Smart move, Carolina(s).
It's the kind of match-up that has been overdue, the kind of forward-thinking move necessary in today's college football landscape.
Season-opening games of this sort tend to create a buzz of their own, and the bigger the stage the bigger the buzz. Playing this game in an NFL stadium will only stoke the off-season fires in 2015 and the match-up of the two Carolinas in a city which embraces both, makes perfect sense.
The stadium will be packed and the game will be an "event." Let's face it, if the Tar Heels and Gamecocks were opening up against FCS opponents the buzz would be a bit more - well, subdued. But an old-fashioned border war in a border city? On an NFL stage?
There's an added bonus for both schools. Charlotte has become a college football recruiting battleground. Carolina - and by this I mean North Carolina, my apologies to my friends from the Palmetto State - has been trying to make inroads in the Charlotte area for years. But many of the city's best high school football players leave the area to play college football. Just this spring, the Tar Heels held a scrimmage in the Charlotte area - so playing a regular-season game in the Queen City is the next logical step to building a greater presence in the 704 area code.
As for South Carolina, Columbia is actually closer to Charlotte than Chapel Hill - so Mecklenburg County is as much a recruiting backyard for the Gamecocks than it is for the Tar Heels.
If you've spent any time in Kenan Stadium over the last - oh, few decades or so... chances are you've heard the this cheer: 'When you say Carolina, say North Carolina...' That jab harkens back to a time when the Gamecocks were an ACC rival and they too referred to themselves as 'Carolina.' Those conference rivalry days are long gone - four decades and counting - but the natural rivalry of the geography remains. And Charlotte is the perfect border war city for this game.
I'd like to see this game become a staple feature for these two programs. It might never rival the annual Georgia-Florida game in Jacksonville, but a Carolinas showdown in Charlotte each year would certainly be a lot of fun. If Carolina & Carolina don't want to commit to an annual game, rotate State, Tennessee, Georgia and others into Charlotte each year. The result would undoubtedly be entertaining football on a big stage - the kind of platform which can elevate the profile of college football in this region.