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Two States. One Team.

Celebrating 20 Years of the Carolina Panthers at Wofford College

This summer, Wofford and the Carolina Panthers celebrated the 20th year of a summer training camp partnership that is one of the longest in professional sports and one that has brought increased visibility and exposure to the college.

From the opening “Back to Football” party at Gibbs Stadium on July 26 through the final practice on Aug. 12, nearly 50,000 visitors attended training camp this year, a record number and an increase of 11 percent over 2013.

“We were very happy with training camp this year,” says Director of Athletics Richard Johnson. “The college and the Spartanburg community are blessed to continue to be the summer home for the Panthers, and the organization has worked hard to engage its fans here and to make this one of the most fan-friendly experiences in the NFL. It’s a real pleasure to have the team on our campus, and to be able to showcase ourselves to the community and the visitors who flock here.”

To celebrate, local businesses and institutions welcomed the Panthers with signs, banners and flags. Also, earlier this year, Wofford dedicated a sculpture of Panthers owner and founder Jerry Richardson ’59, who is a member of the college’s board of trustees, recognizing Richardson’s contribution to the college. The sculpture overlooks Gibbs Stadium from the verandah of the Richardson Physical Activities Building, headquarters for the NFL team during the summer.

“The impact Jerry Richardson and the Carolina Panthers have had on Wofford and the Spartanburg community as a whole has been tremendous,” President Nayef H. Samhat says. “This is a long-standing partnership that has brought national recognition to campus and Spartanburg and has provided family entertainment to residents and visitors alike. Wofford is lucky to have such a generous family in the Richardsons, and we are proud to serve as the summer home for the Panthers.”

Every summer since 1995, football fans from all over the country, and even international visitors, have come to campus to watch the team prepare for its season. Every summer, hundreds of news media outlets also descend on the campus to cover the team – all reporting “from Wofford College.”

Peter King, a long-time, revered Sports Illustrated writer, and now editor and lead writer for his Monday Morning Quarterback website, made his annual trip to Wofford this summer and continued his traditional accolades for the camp. He told Spartanburg Herald-Journal sports writer Eric Boynton, “It’s a bad training camp season when I can’t come to Spartanburg because I just think this is the perfect place for training camp.”

King, who previously has said the Panthers camp is one of his top five among NFL training camps for fan friendliness, went on to say: “The reason why Wofford’s training camp is fantastic is that (team owner) Jerry Richardson and the Panthers have basically kept in mind that they want training camp to be about the fans being able to reach out and touch the players.” He described watching Panthers quarterback Cam Newton “hugging babies, signing autographs and doing all that stuff for 20 minutes after a hot day at practice.”

Of Wofford, King told the newspaper, “This campus has been really modernized and coming to Wofford now is like coming to an upper-class suburb of a nice city. It’s just beautiful. The buildings are all new, everything’s modern, the practice fields look like putting greens at Augusta. And they’ve figured it isn’t only a campus scene that’s important, but the comfort of players and the viewing experience and everything for the fans is very good.”

Panthers President Danny Morrison ’75 says bringing training camp to Wofford when he was athletics director had a ripple effect as the college was transitioning from NAIA to NCAA Division II and Division I a few years later. Because of the Wofford / Panthers partnership, the college entered the Southern Conference with NFL-caliber facilities — a great benefit for recruitment. Morrison says getting the Panthers to campus was critical to Wofford’s current athletics success and profile.

“It’s really been wonderful for Wofford and the Panthers,” Morrison says. “To play our games in North Carolina (Charlotte) and then have training camp in South Carolina fits the overall philosophy of the Panthers.”

By Laura Hendrix Corbin