Photo credit: Charlotte Athletics
Charlotte is on a tear to start league play
After an inconsistent non-conference showing from Charlotte, the Niners have gelled and found another gear in their inaugural season of American Athletic Conference play. Charlotte currently shares the top position in the AAC with #22 Florida Atlantic Owls, however the Niners hold a tiebreaker after knocking off the Owls at Halton Arena back on January 6th.
Interim Head Coach Aaron Fearne’s group dropped their first AAC game at SMU (66-54), which came on the heels of a disappointing loss at Stetson, whom they had dismantled a few weeks at home. The Niners had also dropped four out of five games heading into league play, with the only win coming at home against non-D1 Greensboro College. It felt like many in Niner Nation were questioning the direction of the season, and it was justifiable.
Following the loss to SMU, Fearne and Charlotte have ripped off six wins in a row, including two come from behind victories where they trailed by 20 points (at Rice and vs. UAB). Digging such early holes isn’t a trend you want to set, but the unwillingness to quit and pack it in, is certainly there in this group. Without question, Fearne has this group playing at a high-level.
Given the six-game winning streak many folks are now commenting about Fearne’s interim status and how he should be named the permanent head coach at Charlotte. I don’t agree with that, there’s plenty of season left to judge Fearne. I like Fearne and would love to see him earn the job, but you can’t base that on a stretch of games. Otherwise, you can look back earlier in the season and its easier judge him differently. It should be about the totality of the season, so I feel it’s best to discuss this more come March.
I said before the season that if Fearne found a way to take this team to the top 4 in AAC, that’d likely earn him the permanent gig. Charlotte has that opportunity in front of them, and I can’t wait to watch the journey unfold to see where this group goes. Its undeniable that they have heart and are playing for one another.
To put on my Athletic Director’s hat for a moment, what’s the incentive to make a decision now if you are Mike Hill and Charlotte? If this Charlotte team were to stumble and wind up mid-AAC, it’d look like you reached too early on Fearne. Realistically Charlotte’s not currently competing with anyone for Aaron Fearne’s future services. You can just as easily lock into something at the end of the regular season, should the results trend in the right direction.
If I’m Aaron Fearne, I can also parlay this into a stronger negotiating position. The better his team finishes, the more he can command from Mike Hill and Charlotte, or elsewhere if he were to test the open market.
My advice to Niner Nation is simple, let’s sit back and enjoy the ride, and more of Lu’Cye (Patterson) in our opponents’ eyes.