CHARLOTTE – It will be three months before the Carolina Panthers kick off their preseason schedule, but Bank of America Stadium hosted a coin toss Thursday just the same.
The University of South Carolina won the toss and will be the home team for its 2015 showdown against the University of North Carolina, but it's a win-win situation for all involved.
"We're very pleased to announce on behalf of the City of Charlotte, the Charlotte Sports Foundation and the Carolina Panthers that on September 5, 2015, two great teams – the University of North Carolina and University of South Carolina – will play a football game at Bank of America Stadium," said Will Webb, executive director of the Charlotte Sports Foundation, at a press conference Thursday. "Without this stadium, we wouldn't be here today, so I want to particularly thank (Panthers President) Danny Morrison, (Panthers Owner/Founder) Jerry Richardson and the Panthers for everything they did to make this happen."
Webb said the foundation is working toward a second meeting between the schools at the stadium by 2019, with North Carolina serving as the home team.
The Tar Heels and Gamecocks haven't faced off on the football field since 2007, though they are scheduled to meet in the 2013 season opener at South Carolina.
"This is a huge event for Charlotte, and it's a huge event for these student-athletes that will be coming here," Webb said. "Not all of them will get to play in an NFL stadium, and this is already the best open-air NFL stadium in the country and is going to be by far the best when these two get to play here."
The Panthers will have had two offseasons to implement parts of their stadium renovation master plan by the time the longtime rivals meet. The Charlotte City Council approved a deal last month that calls for the city to invest $75 million to go with a $37.5 million investment by the Panthers. The funds will go toward projects like the installation of escalators and new video and ribbon boards, as well as improvements to the sound system, concourse and stadium infrastructure.
"The Carolina Panthers are very excited about hosting this premier event at Bank of America Stadium," Morrison said. "To have two outstanding universities and football programs competing in Charlotte will be special."
North Carolina last played at Bank of America Stadium in 2009 when it participated in the Belk Bowl against the University of Pittsburgh.
"This means a great deal to the University of North Carolina," Tar Heels athletic director Bubba Cunningham said. "We have more alumni here than in any place in the country other than the Triangle, and being able to come down and play a regular season game is something we very much look forward to.
"With the (ACC) championship game here as well, we hope to get used to coming to Charlotte on a regular basis."
South Carolina last played at Bank of America Stadium in 2011 when it took on East Carolina in the regular season opener for both schools.
"This is a great opportunity for the University of South Carolina and the University of North Carolina," Gamecocks athletic director Ray Tanner said. "It seems like a natural. Being in separate conferences, it's difficult sometimes to get a game like this, but I think it's very special.
"Coach (Steve) Spurrier is excited about it, and I know our fans will excited to come to this great city and kick off the 2015 season."
Webb said both schools would be issued 12,500 tickets for the matchup.
"What's great about having it in Charlotte is that both institutions have so many fans here," Cunningham said. "It will be maroon versus Carolina blue. I know our fans are excited about it, and it should be a great weekend for the city and for alums of both schools in the city."