Cover Story: USC vs. ECU in Q.C.

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Big time college football in Charlotte this Labor Day weekend.  Two Carolina teams cracking helmets.

USC and ECU in the QC.

University of South Carolina and East Carolina will be going head to head Saturday night at Bank of America Stadium.

It's a big game.  And ought to draw a big crowd to Charlotte on a weekend when a lot of people are getting out of town.

Both schools are trying to raise their visibility in the Carolinas' largest city.

For Charlotte it's a rare treat.  For a city without big-time college football this is the first of three huge college football games we'll see here this fall.

The field still shows the NFL logo.  That'll change this weekend when B of A Stadium welcomes college football: East Carolina and South Carolina.

USC has already made its mark - taking out a billboard on I-77 near Center City - working the Carolina "C" into Charlotte.  A goal of painting banktown garnet and black.

It's a day James Wolf has dreamed about for more than just football.

He's president of the Gamecock Club and has lived in Charlotte six years.  Wolf makes it his mission to call every Charlotte-area high school senior who chooses S.C. for school.

"South Carolina right now is riding high. Last year five-percent of the freshman class came from Charlotte. This year it's seven-percent. And that seven-percent of the largest freshmen class ever which is pushing 47-hundred students," he said.

Friday night they'll turn the rooftop of the EpiCenter into a massive pep rally.

This game, the first game of the season, taking on more the feel of a end-of-the-year Bowl game.

"We're creating a Bowl-like atmosphere and showing North Carolina - ACC country what the SEC and Gamecock Nation really is all about," said Wolf.

Not to be outdone, ECU - the Pirates are planting their flag in Charlotte this weekend.

The game is giving bars and restaurants and the city's hotels a late-summer economic shot in the arm.

Steve Wilfong and his brother own Mortimer's Pub in the EpiCenter - the official Pirate bar in Charlotte.

"I've heard from everybody from Tennessee to New York that are traveling to the game," he said.  "We're pretty pumped up. I don't remember who we're playing.. but either way it's going to be a great weekend. It'll be a good time for Pirate and Pirate Nation.. big purple and gold!"

Wilfong knows of course who they're playing.

ECU has had a tough week.  The school was closed for two days this week after Hurricane Irene downed trees and damaged dormitories.

"If any sports from the past will show you that if the Saints can win a Super Bowl because of devastation the natural disasters only made it easier for us to," said Wilfong.

Who will win?  Certainly Charlotte will.

Raycom Sports, the organizer of the game would like to make this an annual event.

"We have always been looking to put a regular season game into Charlotte," said Raycom Sports CEO Ken Haines.  "About the only time it can accommodate the Panthers schedule is this Labor Day weekend."

The next two big college football games Charlotte will host will be in December - the Belk Bowl and the ACC Football Championship.

55,000-to-60,000 are expected for Friday night's game at B of A Stadium.  They still have tickets available.

South Carolina is ranked 12th in the nation.  Some are saying this the best team coach Steve Spurrier has had at USC.

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