This has been an interesting week in sports. As you can tell by Jeremy Ledbetter’s articles (in the Jan. 15 print edition an on-line), the NFL playoffs produced an amazing weekend of games Jan 9 and 10 that truly lived up to the name Wild Cards, and the collegiate ranks crowned a champion in a classic championship game that many will remember for a very long time. This report seeks to fill you in on a few items that may have eluded your attention.
I’ll get to the current college football season’s championships momentarily, but Tennessee State University released some important information on Monday that you may want to know about. The Tigers have booked two important FBS adversaries for road games over the coming years that may produce the biggest away game contingents in years for the Big Blue. Of local interest, the Tigers will travel along the 28th Avenue Connector to play the SEC’s Commodores at Vanderbilt Stadium twice in the next three years, first on Oct. 22, 2016, and again in 2018. Of regional importance and even perhaps more fascinating is that the Tigers will be the season opening opponents for the Georgia State Panthers on Sept. 2, 2017.
“Vanderbilt is a good opportunity for our players to compete against an FBS opponent without having to leave the city,” said Director of Athletics Teresa Phillips. “Georgia State is an opportunity for us to get back to Atlanta. We played in the Atlanta Classic for so many years, and we have a lot of alumni in that area. It’s a good recruiting base for us student wise, and we’re excited for the opportunity to go back to Atlanta.”
This is where it gets really interesting… the Panthers play their home games currently in the Georgia Dome, where TSU has played many times in the Atlanta Football Classic, mostly against FAMU. I actually attended the Panthers home game against Clark Atlanta a few years back in 2012. The Georgia Dome is set for demolition soon, however, but only after the completion and opening of the phenomenal $1.4 BILLION dollar 71,000 seat Mercedes Benz Stadium (not to be confused with Mercedes Benz SuperDome in New Orleans).
This soon-to-be-state-of-the-art retractable roof stadium will host the 2018 FBS national football game, along with the 2017 and subsequent SEC football championships through 2026, along with other major (sporting) events. The announcement hasn’t been made as to where the TSU-GSU game will be, although the new stadium is set to open for the Falcons in time for their 2017 NFL season. The offical word is “The game is scheduled for Sept. 2, 2017 with a venue to be determined.” Thus, without executed contracts, it is possible that TSU may be one of the early acts to play on one of the greatest stages in the nation soon. Expect it to host at least one Super Bowl in the near future, as well.
And, speaking of the Super Bowl, it was announced recently that Beyonce has been added to the talent roster for half-time of next month’s big game. Let’s face it, who really cared about Coldplay? Right…who?
While the FBS championship was settled in Phoenix on Monday, the FCS championship was determined on the field in lovely Frisco, Texas. One of TSU’s regular OVC opponents, Jacksonville State (13-2), made it to the FCS national championship game last Saturday, where they lost to North Dakota State (13-2) by a final score of 37-10. OBTW, it was the (unprecedented) fifth consecutive FCS championship for NDSU; talk about a dynasty!
And, on the subject of losers, the Predators traded away the second black player in franchise history last week to The Columbus Blue Jackets. Seth Jones now joins Joel Ward as the answer to that trivia question: what black players have played for the Predators? I’m so glad I plan to be in Atlanta for the Honda Battle of the Bands on Jan. 30 cheering for the TSU Aristocrat of Bands the weekend the NHL All-Star Game is in Nashville.
Speaking of TSU, not losers, though, are the TSU basketball teams. The mens team has caught fire lately, and is lighting up the nets and the scoreboards, leading to a sparkling 12-4 overall record and a phenomenal 3-0 OVC conference start at press time. The defending OVC champion Lady Tigers are off to a 7-6 start overall, 2-1 in conference. The teams host Murray State on Saturday, Jan. 16 then the Tigers play at Belmont on Jan. 23, at Tennessee Tech on American Sports Network (locally on WUXP-30) on Jan. 28, then at Jacksonville State on Jan 30. Mark your calendars now for the next Tigers home stand Feb. 4, 6 and 10; with the teams and the AoB ‘Pep Band’ will rock the Gentry Center for one truly unique Music City experience.
This weekend, the NFL playoffs continue, and unlike the college playoffs, they are all on free TV, not ESPN. Saturday’s games find Kansas City at New England at 3:30 on CBS followed by Green Bay at Arizona at 7:15 on NBC. The Game of the Century kicks off at high Noon on Sunday as the Seattle Seahawks take on the Carolina Panthers on FOX. The final game of the Divisional round finds the Pittsburgh Steelers in Denver against the Broncos on CBS at 3:30. Winners play next Sunday, Jan. 24 for the right to play in Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7.