The Carolina Panthers became the NFL’s 29th expansion franchise in 1993 but didn’t play their first game until two years later. They began in the West division of the National Football Conference. In 2002, the NFL added two divisions representing the south, going from six total divisions (north, east and west in both conferences) to eight, with four teams in each for a total of 32 teams. The Panthers became part of the new NFC South division. Even though Charlotte, North Carolina, is where their headquarters and stadium, Bank of America Stadium, are located, the Panthers represent both North and South Carolina. They played their home games in the first season in South Carolina and still train there, which is why their name doesn’t specify north or south.
Because the Panthers are so young and haven’t had too long to build their fan base, there have been times when the majority of fans attending their home games were in support of their opponents. They are gaining notoriety, though, because they get better and better as time goes on. They have had many successes even though the end of the 2015 season marks only their 21st season.
Although many teams have been around long enough to be the Panthers’ “great-grandfather,” Carolina plays with the same experience and solidarity of the more established teams. In their first season, they set an all-time NFL record by winning 7 games and losing 9, the best a first-year expansion team had ever done. Their second season in 1996 was significantly better, as they won twelve games and lost just four (an amazing accomplishment for a second-year team). They went on to win their division, the NFC West, but lost in the Conference Championship to the eventual Super Bowl champions, the Green Bay Packers.
In 2016, the Panthers find themselves playing in Super Bowl 50, their second appearance in the league championship in franchise history. After their almost flawless 2015 season with only one loss, they have shown the world that they are a force to be reckoned with. They are also believed to be worth a not-so-shabby $1.56 billion.
By: Erin Irish