The best era for every current AAC football school

Famous Toastery Bowl - Western Kentucky v Old Dominion
Famous Toastery Bowl - Western Kentucky v Old Dominion / Isaiah Vazquez/GettyImages
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Charlotte 49ers: 2019 season

OK, this one is pretty tough but easy at the same time. The University of North Carolina at Charlotte hasn’t been in the college football ranks for very long. They’re still a relatively young program as they first started playing football in 2013 after the program was officially added to the school in 2008.

This makes the choice for this school extremely limited. The first two seasons in Charlotte 49ers football history were as FCS Independents. The program moved up to the FBS level by joining Conference USA in 2015. In the nine years since joining the FBS, Charlotte has suffered through eight losing seasons.

However, there is one outlier to the brief existence of this program. The 2019 season is that outlier. Heading into 2019, the program was looking up in a positive direction. The 2018 squad finished with a 5-7 record, a four-win improvement from a 1-11 2017 campaign. Brad Lambert was fired as head coach and in stepped Will Healy from Austin Peay.

Despite the improvement shown in 2018, little suggested that Charlotte would take the next step and become a bowl team. This held true through the first seven games of the year, as the 49ers started 2-5, including an 0-3 start in CUSA play. Then after, the team got surprisingly hot, winning their final five games of the regular season. 

This stretch was highlighted by a 39-38 win over North Texas in which quarterback Chris Reynolds hit Victor Tucker for the winning touchdown with 18 seconds left. Another impressive win during this stretch was against regular Conference USA contender Marshall, who Charlotte beat 24-13 in late November. 

By winning the final five games of the regular season, Charlotte became bowl-eligible for the first time, with a 7-5 mark. They were only two games back of eventual conference champion Florida Atlantic in the East Division. The school would thrive nationally for the first time on the gridiron, as they accepted a bid to play in the Bahamas Bowl against Buffalo from the MAC.

Unfortunately, Charlotte wouldn’t finish their great turnaround in spectacular fashion. In the Bahamas Bowl, the team trailed 24-0 to Buffalo in the first half before falling 31-9. Despite the disappointing ending, this was the first taste of success the school would enjoy in football. Chris Reynolds threw for 22 touchdowns and defensive end Alex Highsmith led C-USA with 15 sacks. 

Since this season, Charlotte has never enjoyed another winning season. Will Healy was fired following a 1-7 start to the 2022 season. Now Biff Poggi is at the helm for his second year in 2024, trying to make Charlotte a consistent contender in Conference USA.