Charlotte’s men’s basketball team opens play in the College Basketball Invitational on Saturday when they travel to Daytona Beach to face Western Carolina in the first round. Aside from capping a strong season for the 49ers in which they went 18-14, the tournament could have even bigger implications. Implications that may even impact its football program.
Daytona Beach is about an hour away from Orlando, home to the Cure Bowl. If 49ers fans have a solid turnout in Orlando, it could make them an attractive future option for the Cure Bowl. Charlotte is not particularly close to Orlando, but it's not incredibly far either at only about 520 miles away or an eight-hour drive.
Add in the fact that this would be Charlotte's second bowl game ever, and first on the mainland United States, as they went to the Bahamas Bowl in 2019, and attendance at the 49ers CBI appearance may be more important than it seems.
The Cure Bowl has struggled with attendance the past two years as it has featured intersectional matchups. In 2021, Northern Illinois-Coastal Carolina drew 9,784 fans, and last season UTSA-Troy drew 11,911 fans to the 25,500-seat Exploria Stadium.
Having a Charlotte team play a southeastern C-USA or Sun Belt team may be a better option for in-person attendance as this would be the first bowl that Charlotte fans could conveniently attend.
While the Cure Bowl would like to have the reputation as the premier Group of Five Bowl with them hosting elite matchups the last three seasons, this comes at the expense of in-person attendance, which opens the door for Charlotte.
The trip on the opening Friday of bowl season is tough, but it would be easier for Charlotte fans than for fans of MAC schools or a Western Conference USA team like UTEP or New Mexico State that may play in the Cure Bowl as a reward for winning the conference.
As strange as it seems, Charlotte fans can do much to get themselves an attractive bowl in the future. Investment in a tournament long considered an afterthought in the college basketball scene could have lasting implications for Charlotte football’s postseason picture.