With over 77,000 fans in attendance — nearly a full house — Notre Dame’s first home game of the season against Tennessee State was more than just a typical college football matchup. The game marked Notre Dame’s first time playing against a historically Black college or university (HBCU), and Tennessee State became the first school from the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) to play Notre Dame.
The halftime show at the game featured the Tennessee State marching band, the Grammy-award winning “Aristocrat of Bands.” Although the home team typically performs last during the halftime show, the Irish gave the renowned TSU band the spotlight and asked them to perform second. The electric show filled the already lively stadium with new energy, featuring popular hits like “Sweet Dreams” by Beyonce. The first of HBCU marching bands in many ways, from the first to appear on national television to the first to play at the White House, the Aristocrat of Bands achieved another first by performing at Notre Dame.
In a post-game press conference following Notre Dame’s victory, head coach Marcus Freeman reflected on the significance of the game: “Sometimes, you just have to take a minute and reflect on what an opportunity it was for our football team to play not only an FCS opponent but an HBCU,” he said. “It’s really important, and it’s humbling, especially being an African American head coach. This is what you want for college football.”
The Fighting Irish defeated the Tigers with a final score of 56-3. Quarterback Sam Hartman started the game off seven-for-seven, passing for over 90 yards, as well as scoring his first rushing touchdown for Notre Dame.
Hartman’s success with the Irish so far has been supported by Notre Dame’s strong performance both offensively and defensively. Within their first two games of the season, the Irish have outscored their opponents by a total of 92 points (the most for the program since 1932) while giving up no touchdowns and just two field goals.
Ultimately, the showdown between the Irish and the Tigers was significant both on and off the field, and the 2023 home opener will be remembered as a historic moment for both football programs.