Will Healy made clear Wednesday that he wants to create excitement for UNC Charlotte football.
“Where we’re sitting right here at one point in time will be part of a stadium with 40,000 people screaming about Charlotte athletics,” Healy said during his first news conference as coach of the 49ers. “That’s my hope for this place.”
There's a long way to go. Average attendance was only about 11,700 this season for the 5-7 49ers.
Healy says they first have to fill the 15,000 seats in Jerry Richardson Stadium, but by creating a culture of openness and developing relationships with the student body and city, fans will follow.
That energy was a big factor for Athletic Director Mike Hill when deciding to hire the 33-year-old Healy.
“I think he reflects our institution -- young, hungry, up-and-comer,” Hill said. “He is a force -- you can feel it in the room when you’re with him.”
Hill said it's important that the coach have a desire to be in Charlotte, and to make the team known in a city with “so many divided interests.”
Healy led Austin Peay State University for the last three years after seven years as an assistant coach at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Austin Peay had a 29-game losing streak when he arrived. In 2017, Healy led the team to an 8-4 record and earned the Eddie Robinson Award for the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Coach of the Year.
Before that, Healy was a quarterback at the University of Richmond when the school won the FCS national championship during his senior season in 2008.
Healy said was excited to take the Charlotte job. He recalled his response when Athletic Director Mike Hill called him about the position: “I would walk to Charlotte from Chattanooga just to have an opportunity to talk to you about this job.”
Many coaches across the country raved about Healy when they learned he landed the job, including Clemson coach Dabo Swinney.
“What a home run hire. This guy is as sharp as they come. He’s about all the right things. He’s going to be awesome. Those players will love him, and I really believe that he will build something special there in Charlotte. He’s one of the bright young coaches in the business, but more importantly, he’s a great person with a great family. Charlotte knocked it out of the park.”