Fact Friday 227 - Before they were the 49ers

Fact Friday 227 - Before they were the 49ers

Happy Friday! 


This Friday the Charlotte 49ers will play in their first bowl game in program history and Niner Nation is on fire! Charlotte will face off against Buffalo in the Bahamas Bowl. But for those that can't make it down to the Bahamas for fun in the sun, an official watch party will be held at Noda Brewing! 

Before there were football helmets with internal padding, chin straps and face masks, there were those made of leather. Before Jerry Richardson Stadium, there was Memorial Stadium and Central High School.

And before there were the Charlotte 49ers, there were the Owls, UNC Charlotte’s— founded as the Charlotte Center—first football team. Although they never had an official mascot, athletic teams were known as the Owls because of the school's beginnings as a night school. To celebrate our 1-year store front anniversary in 2018, we developed our very own mascot inspired by the Charlotte Owls, named Oscar, as an ode to the alma mater of the owners. Our interpretation of Oscar represents the ability to create freely and be your own individual.  


Limited Edition 704 Shop Oscar the Owl Tee

Carroll York with his leather helmet at Jerry Richardson Stadium for the 49ers first football game in August 2013.


Carroll York was a member of that Owls team.

In a way, he remains a part of the 49ers team. He’s just not on the field. But on most Saturdays since UNC Charlotte’s football program started in 2013, York is in the press box at Jerry Richardson Stadium.

“I thought it was great,” York said of UNC Charlotte starting a football program. “They got me involved, and I get free tickets to all their games and have a special seat out there where (former athletics director) Judy Rose put me.” 

York, 92, has always been a sports enthusiast. He was a three-sport athlete in high school.

I played football, baseball and basketball,” he said. “I captained the basketball team and played center field in baseball.”

In 1946, York was a student at the Charlotte Center when he joined the Owls. Students attended night classes at Central High School, and the team played at Memorial Stadium, which was adjacent to the school.

York’s position on the team was “end.” In those days, York said, there were not as many distinctions in positions as there are today. He noted the team’s performance on the field was not great.

“We only had, I think, about two wins the first year,” he said. I can’t remember the second.”

The team won its two games against Pembroke State and Belmont Abbey.

York with Ed Nuzum as a member of the 1947 Owls.


York said the enrollment at the Charlotte Center, a two-year evening school, could not support a competitive team, and so it dissolved after a couple of seasons.

But York has higher hopes for the Charlotte 49ers. He said he hasn’t met head football coach Will Healy, but that he’d like to.

“I think he’s going to be good, because he’s gotten the team moving,” he said. “I was glad to see that they were finally able to get into the bowl picture.”

After leaving the Charlotte Center in 1948, York enrolled at Clemson University, where he completed a degree in architectural engineering and built a career helping to design and construct schools in Mecklenburg County. 

A die-hard Clemson fan, York reluctantly admitted he pulled for his alma mater during the team’s matchup against UNC Charlotte this season. 

“I had feelings for both teams, but I knew Clemson was going to win,” York said. “So, I left it at that.”

He only misses UNC Charlotte games when they conflict with Clemson. He catches the Tigers on TV. 

“If they’re both playing at the same time, I have to favor Clemson because that’s where I graduated,” York said. 

But there won’t be any conflict on Dec. 20 when UNC Charlotte takes on Buffalo in the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl. So York has just two words of advice for his 49ers.

“Just win,” he said. 

Until next week!


Email me at chris@704shop.com if you have interesting Charlotte facts you’d like to share or just to provide feedback!

Information taken from: 

Inside UNC Charlotte, "Before They Were the 49ers: Former Owls Player Excited for Bowl Game," by Jonnelle Davis. December 2019.  

“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.” – Frederick Douglass

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