Carolina Panthers Team History
October 26, 1993, after six years of hopeful anticipation, the
Carolina Panthers were awarded an NFL expansion franchise. Fireworks
exploded over downtown Charlotte as jubilant fans gathered to
celebrate the news. "This is a dream come true for me and
my partners and for the 10 million people in the Carolinas,"
said Jerry Richardson, the former Baltimore Colts wide receiver
turned businessman who led the Carolinas' bid.
The "dream" began on July 16, 1987, when Richardson
met in Charlotte with a group of interested parties to discuss
the feasibility of entering the multi-city competition for two
NFL expansion franchises. On December 15, Richardson made it
official. The Carolinas' hat was in the ring.
After a year of planning, Carolinas' bid was bolstered by the
addition of Hall of Famer and former Seattle Seahawks general
manager/head coach Mike McCormack to Richardson Sports as a
consultant for the expansion effort.
One of the first orders of business was to select a stadium
site. Although sites in both North and South Carolina were considered,
Richardson Sports announced on December 15, 1989, the selection
of a site in Uptown Charlotte as the future home of a privately
financed stadium that would seat more than 70,000 fans.
State-wide support for the Carolinas' franchise bid poured in
at an unprecedented rate. United States Senators Jesse Helms
of North Carolina and Ernest Hollings of South Carolina lobbied
NFL owners on the Carolinas' behalf. Likewise, South Carolina
Governor Carroll Campbell and North Carolina Governor Jim Martin
officially announced their support through the formation of
a blue-ribbon committee of leading citizens in both states.
Fans demonstrated their support at sell-out neutral site exhibition
games played in Raleigh, N.C. in 1989, Chapel Hill, N.C. in
1990, and Columbia, S.C. in 1991.
At the March 18, 1992 NFL owners meeting, the number of expansion
hopefuls was reduced from 11 to seven. Carolinas' bid made the
cut. A few months later, on May 20, the NFL reduced the list
to five communities including Baltimore, St. Louis, Memphis,
Jacksonville and the Carolinas. The finalists' enthusiasm was
somewhat dampened, however, when on October 20, 1992, the NFL
owners, citing complications surrounding the ongoing NFL labor
situation, voted to delay the expansion vote until their fall
1993 meeting. Fortunately, on January 6, 1993, the league and
its players reached a seven-year Collective Bargaining Agreement.
On March 23, 1993, the expansion race officially resumed.
On June 3, Richardson Sports revealed its impressive plan to
privately finance a 72,300-seat stadium. Sale of Permanent Seat
Licenses, club seats and luxury boxes began on July 1. A remarkable
15,000 pieces of mail from first-day orders were collected.
By the end of the first day, all 8,314 club seats were sold
out and all 104 luxury suites were reserved and ultimately leased.
First-day PSL orders totaled 41,632.
Finally, on October 26, 1993, the NFL owners, unanimously selected
the Carolinas as the 29th NFL franchise and the first expansion
team since 1976.
The Panthers played their first-ever game in Canton, Ohio in
the annual AFC-NFC Hall of Fame Game. Their opponent in the
pre-season classic was the NFL's other expansion franchise,
the Jacksonville Jaguars. Although the Panthers came away with
a 20-14 victory, it was apparent that both teams had benefited
from the NFL's expansion draft and the free-agent market and
were ready to compete in the NFL. The Panthers not only were
competitive in their inaugural season, but established a new
NFL record for most wins by an expansion team by posting an
impressive 7-9 record. The team improved dramatically during
its second season, winning the NFC Western division with a 12-4
record and advancing to the NFC Championship Game.
In 2003, the Panthers, just two seasons removed from a 1-15
season won the NFC championship to earn a berth in Super Bowl