Notre Dame football has scheduled their first-ever HBCU opponent for 2023, ending their long-running record of not playing FCS teams.
The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame are all about tradition but some traditions have to give way for new opportunities and experiences to emerge.
That seems to be the focus for Notre Dame as they announced the scheduling of a 2023 game against Tennessee State, the program’s first historically black college and university opponent.
In addition to being the first HBCU Notre Dame will face, Tennessee State will also be the first FCS opponent for the Irish.
Notre Dame football to play first HBCU opponent in 2023
Notre Dame, UCLA and USC together held the distinction of never having played an FCS opponent in football. The Bruins are giving their place in that group up this year with Alabama State on the schedule in September.
The Trojans had put UC Davis on the schedule for 2021 but athletic director Mike Bohn reversed the scheduling decision of his predecessor after an outcry from fans.
The Fighting Irish also risk the ire of fans over the FCS schedule decision but framing the matchup as a historic meeting with an HBCU is a smart way to garner support. Fans may be wary of FCS games, but supporting HBCU programs is at least a worthy trade-off.
Tennessee State is led by former Ohio State Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George, who took over the program in 2021. The Tigers went 5-6 in his first season in charge.
George has the slightest head start on new Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman, who was hired in December after the departure of Bryan Kelly for LSU.
Notre Dame’s 2023 schedule is shaping up to be an interesting one. The Fighting Irish will open the campaign in Dublin against Navy before heading home to take on Tennessee State at Notre Dame Stadium. They will also face Ohio State, USC, Clemson and Stanford.