The first Sunday in September will not be a day of rest for Tennessee State.
And after their season opener, the Tigers won’t have much time to relax.
On Tuesday, TSU announced its 2013 football schedule, which begins on Sunday, Sept. 1, against Bethune-Cookman in the 15th annual John Merritt Classic at LP Field.
TSU officials hope playing on a Sunday will encourage Tigesr fans to flock to LP Field during Labor Day Weekend.
History says that should be the case. The highest attended John Merritt Classic, with a crowd of 31,119, occurred on a Sunday back in 1999 against Alabama A&M.
The unusual Sunday opener marks the beginning of 12 straight weeks of games for the Tigers. Their bye week falls on Nov. 23 — a week after the regular-season finale against Murray State.
TSU played just 11 games last season, including seven conference games in the nine-team Ohio Valley Conference. The Tigers will have a full slate this year with eight league games.
TSU went through a similar situation last fall. After 10 straight weeks of games, the Tigers were finally idle during the second week of November. The lack of rest seemingly played a factor in a handful of injuries late.
TSU lost three of the last four games after a 7-0 start. Still, the Tigers finished the year with an 8-3 record and with their most wins in an 11-game season since 2001.
The schedule features five home games. Last year, TSU returned to campus and Hale Stadium three times in conjunction with the school’s centennial celebration. According to school officials, only one game — if any — will be played at Hale this year.
In addition to the John Merritt Classic, the Tigers will play in two other classics. For the 24th straight year, they’ll play Jackson State (Miss.) on Sept. 14 in the Southern Heritage Classic in Memphis. TSU will also play Division II Central State (Ohio) on Sept. 28 in the Gateway Classic in St. Louis.