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May 9, 2013

USC, UNC to open 2015 season in Charlotte

CHARLOTTE -- The South Carolina-North Carolina football rivalry is adding another chapter.

The two teams, as first reported by The Charlotte Observer on Tuesday, will open the 2015 season against each other in Bank of America Stadium. USC Athletic Director Ray Tanner, UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham and Will Webb, Executive Director of the Charlotte Sports Foundation, announced the news on Thursday during a press conference at the home of the Carolina Panthers.

"It seems to be a natural," Tanner said. "Coach (Steve) Spurrier was excited about it."

Tanner received a call from Webb and Cunningham in the fall, wondering if USC would potentially be interested in adding a new game against the Tar Heels to the schedule. It wouldn't affect USC's 2013 season-opener hosting the Heels and be a neutral-site game in Charlotte, with the possibility of more.

Having opened the 2011 season in Charlotte with a rout of East Carolina, the Gamecocks knew Bank of America Stadium well. It wouldn't affect USC's other seven home games, and add another game an hour and change up the road. Tanner and Deputy Athletic Director Charles Waddell approached Spurrier about the idea, Spurrier said he liked it, and the two schools proceeded.

The Gamecocks had already scheduled Sept. 5, 2015, as a game at East Carolina. That game has been moved back upon agreement with the Pirates' brass, as part of a long-running series with ECU. The new date has yet to be determined.

The Gamecocks and Tar Heels open the 2013 season as well, on Aug. 29 at Williams-Brice Stadium. It will be another installment in a rivalry that was attempted to be resumed in recent seasons, but scheduling conflicts on UNC's end caused postponements.

The Gamecocks and Tar Heels have a lengthy past, stemming from each's involvement in the ACC. UNC leads the all-time series 34-17-4, but USC leads 6-5 since 1971, when the school departed the ACC. The Gamecocks won the last installment 21-15 in 2007.

It was time to get the border war re-started. While Tanner didn't know at this point if there will be any kind of special trophy or nickname for the game - USC and Missouri, each located in the Columbia of their respective states, started a rivalry for a trophy in 2012 - it could happen.

And it could also lead to other games between the two schools. Tanner said that he hoped that eventually, USC's men's basketball team would play the Tar Heels, and he hoped the baseball rivalry would resume as well.

"It's really a natural rivalry from fan interest," Tanner said. "We're looking at possible expansion to other games."

Cunningham said that he hoped that playing in Charlotte would get the Tar Heels used to playing in the stadium. The ACC Championship Game is also held in Charlotte.

Details for the football game:

* USC won a coin flip and is the home team. As such, USC owns the TV rights for the game.

* Each school will receive 12,500 tickets. Charlotte will control the rest.

* The two schools are working to add another game, in Charlotte, potentially in the future. That will depend on several factors, one of which is if the SEC or ACC go to a nine-game league schedule. As it is, Tanner likes the competitiveness of playing eight SEC games, plus a game against UNC and Clemson in 2015, as ways to help with strength-of-schedule for the budding college football playoff. Nine SEC games would hinder playing UNC again. A potential date for another game with UNC would be 2019.

* The ECU series could be extended through 2020 or 2022, depending on future scheduling, but the relationship is still intact. A potential date for the ECU game that was postponed in 2015 could be 2016.

* It is possible that the 2015 game could move to a Thursday night, but that all depends on the TV networks. Right now, it is scheduled for Sept. 5, which is a Saturday.

* The game could eventually pick up a sponsor. Webb said that the talks were ongoing and an announcement on that could be made soon.

The two ADs were excited about the re-installment of the rivalry, Cunningham saying that UNC had more alumni in the Charlotte area than any other part of the world, save the Research Triangle. Tanner, a North Carolina native who played and coached at NC State, agreed that the rivalry is a good way to showcase each state's football talent to the rest of the nation.

"It will be the maroon vs. the Carolina blue," Cunningham said.

Tanner didn't bother to correct Cunningham's faux pas. The Gamecocks wear garnet, not maroon.

The correcting can be done on the field.


Aug. 30 East Carolina (Charlotte)*
Oct. 18 Furman
Nov. 22 Troy
Nov. 29 at Clemson
Sept. 5 North Carolina (Charlotte)
Sept. 26 UCF
Nov. 21 The Citadel
Nov. 28 Clemson
Sept. 3 East Carolina
Nov. 26 at Clemson
* USC officials said that the planned game, in terms of opponent and location, is to be determined. It is listed in the 2012 media guide, but it may change.

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