The UNC Charlotte 49ers began its football program just seven seasons ago. The end of 2017 only brought disappointment to players and fans – the team won just one game. But the program made a huge change and brought in Mike Hill in early 2018 to take over as the director of athletics. Since then, things have only gone upward. That’s never been more true than now, at the end of the 2019 season. The 49ers have reached their first bowl game in program history, and will be taking on Buffalo in the Bahamas Bowl on Dec. 20.
How UNC Charlotte got here
The program’s big change was ignited from two people. The first, Mike Hill. He served as the Executive Associate Athletics Director for External Affairs at the University of Florida for 25 years. He was hired on to join UNC Charlotte in early 2018. Hill says watching UNC Charlotte make it to its first bowl game has been something truly special in the community.
In his first year, Hill made the second big change in the football program. He brought on Will Healy in Dec. 2018 to take over the program as head coach. Healy has not disappointed. He coached the team to its first winning record. The 49ers went 7-5 this year, winning its last five games of the season.
Hill describes Healy as a coach with an “infusion of energy.” He went on to say Healy has made a huge impact on the students, the campus and the alumni base. Hill believes this energy and impact stemming from Healy lies within the coach’s philosophy.
But it’s also the players of the UNC Charlotte football team who have performed at high levels that got them its first bowl game.
On the offensive end, running back Benny LeMay ran for over 1,000 yards on the year, tallying nine touchdowns. Meanwhile, quarterback Chris Reynolds was impressive as well. He threw for nearly 2,400 yards and paired that with 21 touchdowns. Similarly, the defensive end has been shining, as senior Alex Highsmith totaled 14 sacks this season. That number sits right at second in the country. The only player ahead of Highsmith? Ohio State’s Chase Young, a Heisman Trophy candidate.
It’s clear that the UNC Charlotte football program has seen a major shift since its beginning in 2012. And through the hard work that has come from coaches and players, the 49ers are in for a fun bowl game.
They’ll be traveling to the Bahamas, as they face Buffalo on Dec. 20. Kickoff is at 2 p.m.