Prior to 1996, Charlotte, N. Carolina did not have a facility large enough to contend for a college football bowl bid. That changed with the construction of Bank of America Stadium, home to the NFL’s Carolina Panthers. The prime mover in bowl bid contention has been the Charlotte Sports Foundation, which is a corporate entity in Charlotte, N. Carolina.
They began to host college bowl games in 2001-02 at Bank of America Stadium. From 2001 to 2005, the games were known as the Continental Tire Bowl; then, from 2006 through 2010, they were named the Meineke Car Care Bowl games. Since the 2011-2012 game, they have been sponsored by the Belk Department Store chain headquartered in Charlotte. This current arrangement between Belk and the Southeastern Conference is in effect to 2019.
The first Continental Tire Bowl game played at Bank of America Stadium featured University of Virginia vs. West Virginia. Attendance is estimated to have been over 73,000 fans. It was played on December 28, 2001. The University of Virginia did not score first, but did win the game 48-22. By halftime, it appeared University of Virginia was going to be a strong competitor as reflected in the 28-10 lead going into the third quarter.
The bowl games, since their beginning, feature teams from the Southeastern Conference, (SEC), and the Atlantic Coast Conference, (ACC). At present, there are 15 teams in the SEC, and 16 teams in the ACC. Three ACC teams are Boston College, University of Notre Dame and University of Louisville.
The first Belk Bowl game occurred in 2011 featuring the University of Louisville Cardinals vs. the North Carolina State Wolfpack. This was the second bowl bid for Louisville. Though the University of Louisville rallied in the second half from a 31-10 deficit, NC State held on to claim a 31-24 victory. The game was nationally televised by ESPN as have subsequent Belk Bowl games.
The 2015 Belk Bowl again featured the North Carolina State Wolfpack. Their opponent was the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Noted from the final score was 51-28, in favor of the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Of note, this was the first season in school history for the Bulldogs to attain nine wins.
Community support for the Belk Bowl has been consistent over the years. They host a pre-game party the day prior to the bowl game called Fan Central. Furthermore, on the day of the game, a public concert is held given by a major national performer. Ticket sales over the years have been consistently high, which indicates a strong sense of “us” figuring into shared pride in holding the Belk Bowl.
Belk Bowl Stars In The NFL
In the recent past, quarterbacks Jacoby Briffett and Dak Prescott have entered the NFL and doing well. Prescott played for Mississippi State and is in his first year with the Dallas Cowboys. Briffett, who attended North Carolina State, is in his first year with the New England Patriots. Other current players include Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings, and Mike Glennon, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as well as Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions, and Devante Parker, Miami Dolphins.
Of note, two Hall of Fame representatives include Larry FitzGerald, former Arizona Cardinal, and Heath Miller, former Pittsburgh Steeler. The Belk Bowl continues to fashion an important contribution to the American college football scene.