Sports

Notre Dame keeps highlighting HBCUs on national TV — who woulda thunk it?


Marcus Freeman and co.

Marcus Freeman and co.
Photo: Getty Images

Sometimes, olive branches can be extended from unlikely sources.

Notre Dame has announced that they will open the 2023 season by hosting Tennessee State in their home opener on NBC. Yes, you read that correctly. Notre Dame — of all schools — will face off against an HBCU for the first time in program history, and it’s going to be a nationally televised game on NBC.

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Marcus Freeman is already out to prove that he’s no Tyrone Willingham.

“We’re excited to bring a pair of great academic institutions that are steeped in tradition together in 2023,” said University Vice President and James E. Rohr Director of Athletics Jack Swarbrick in a press release. “None of this would be possible without Dr. (Mikki) Allen and Coach (Eddie) George’s vision for what this game can represent to our Universities. I’m thrilled we’re able to bring the Tigers and the Irish together for a weekend that will feature programs with over 20 combined national titles, the Aristocrat of Bands and the Band of the Fighting Irish.”

To be clear, Notre Dame will more than likely beat an FCS team that was 5-6 in 2021. But, they will not win that halftime show. That battle of the bands will be a blowout. Notre Dame’s band is about to get their feelings hurt, trust me.

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The Tennessean is reporting that the game is happening due to the friendship between Freeman and TSU head coach Eddie George, as both of them played at Ohio State. Ironically, the ties between Notre Dame head coaches and their friends at HBCUs are what led to the Fighting Irish men’s basketball team traveling to the nation’s capital to face Howard on their home floor earlier this year on MLK Day on FOX.

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey recruited Howard coach Kenny Blakeney to Duke when Brey was on Coach K’s staff back in the day. Blakeney was also an assistant coach for Brey at the University of Delaware. The game was originally supposed to take place in 2021 but had to be rescheduled to this year because of the pandemic.

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“When we scheduled this game, the parent of every one of our players said, ‘Coach, that’s really powerful. I’m thrilled you’re doing that,’ and our kids talked about it,” Brey told reporters. “When it got canceled last year, most of my guys said, ‘Coach, are we going to play that game?’ They didn’t ask about the Duke game. They asked about the Howard game.”

Notre Dame almost lost that Howard game, too. The Irish barely held on and won 71-68 in a game in which they only led by 1 at halftime.

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“We escaped,” Brey said on Fox after the game. “It was an amazing atmosphere.”

What Brey did was extend an olive branch to an HBCU that put them on national TV on an important holiday that commemorates an HBCU alum. And what Freeman is doing is making history as it will be the first time an HBCU program enters Notre Dame Stadium to play on a stage like NBC on a Saturday in the fall. That matchup will also put some money in TSU’s pocket as these “buy games” usually pay six figures, which is money that HBCUs are always in need of — despite how some idiots may feel about it.

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“The goal is to dominate where you are, not win, but to dominate where you are,” said Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders in December on The Rich Eisen Show. “Then, you look towards down the line to scheduling some of those games. Right now, those games are a financial beatdown. That’s what I call them. That’s what some HBCUs choose to do. I’m going to go to these various schools, get my butt kicked, but I’m walking out of there with $750,000 or a million dollars. That’s not worth it to me. To me, that’s the ultimate sell out to children.”

Mark this as another example of how Deion Sanders has no idea of what’s best for HBCUs. There’s a reason why Howard basketball is playing on FOX and TSU is getting ready to play on NBC, while Sanders program got embarrassed the last time it played on national television when the (11-2) Tigers got molly-whopped by (7-5) South Carolina State 31-10 on ABC in the Celebration Bowl.

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