After a hot start at Charlotte, Will Healy struggled mightily toward the end of his tenure. Once a name floated to take a Power Five job, Healy soon became a fired Group of Five head coach.
Charlotte, hoping to become relevant nationally as it joins the AAC, replaces Healy with Biff Poggi. The former Michigan assistant and high school head coach brings a much different approach than Healy. Poggi is an experienced coach, coming to Charlotte as a 63-year-old.
Poggi was critical in Michigan’s recent resurgence, and he understands how to run a program from years of high school success. Will that experience lead to success with the 49ers?
Charlotte Needs A Boost
Charlotte has just one winning season since becoming an FBS team in 2015, going 7-6 in 2019. The 49ers don’t have a rich program history, as the football team didn’t exist for a good chunk of the 1900s.
Poggi comes to town looking to build Charlotte into a winner, and that process will start with making bowl games consistently. The 49ers need to put winning seasons together consistently to improve recruiting.
Recruiting is a fascinating topic with Poggi. His experience is unique, having led successful high school teams and spent time as a hedge fund manager. He doesn’t have extensive experience in North Carolina, though. How will he recruit in-state players? Can he form strong relationships with high school coaches?
The head coach recently told Niner Times he wants to sell recruits on the possibility of making an expanded College Football Playoff.
“With Charlotte going into the American, if you are within 90 minutes of this place, you can stay home and have a chance to go to the CFP,” Poggi said. “Your family will watch you play every weekend, and players can become a legend in their hometowns. You can join a movement to make a college football powerhouse in Charlotte.”
Poggi and his team are also expected to be followed for a documentary, which could lead to added excitement around the program. Healy generated excitement early in his tenure, but couldn’t sustain success. Poggi’s experience makes him an intriguing fit, as he’s certainly capable of maintaining success at a program. While winning in high school isn’t the same as winning at the Group of Five level, Poggi knows what it’s like to lead a successful program for over a decade.
Fitting Into The AAC
While the new-look AAC isn’t as strong as the league that included Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF, it’s still a decent conference. The league includes programs like UTSA, which has found great success under Jeff Traylor. Memphis, East Carolina, and SMU all invest in their football teams, striving to put a competitive program on the field annually.
For Charlotte to compete, it needs to take a significant step forward. The 49ers were struggling in a weaker C-USA, and now they join a conference with several strong programs. Entering 2023, expectations are low for the 49ers and Poggi.
Poggi will have time to make Charlotte competitive, but he needs to take positive steps early in his tenure. He won’t have an easy time in 2023, as the program’s non-conference schedule includes games with Maryland and Florida. Making a bowl game seems unlikely in Year 1, but Poggi won’t need six wins to build off last season’s 3-9 campaign.
As the AAC currently stands, Charlotte looks like a bottom dweller. Poggi hopes he’s the right man to change that status in the next 3-5 years.
Bennett Conlin is a college football contributor for HERO Sports, and he works full-time covering sports betting industry news and legislation for Sports Handle and US Bets.