FLORENCE, Ala. — In its first season as a full-fledged member of the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, and as a football member of the ASUN Conference, the University of North Alabama will face an 11-game schedule that includes five home dates and a road game at FBS member Memphis.
UNA will face four teams in 2022 that it has never faced in football before in Indiana State, Virginia-Wise Eastern Kentucky and Memphis. The Lions will also renew rivalries with four other opponents in Tarleton State, Central Arkansas, Austin Peay and Tennessee Tech, and face three familiar opponents in Chattanooga, Jacksonville State and Kennesaw State.
"It's exciting knowing that we'll be able to compete in a conference, and to play a schedule that is more of a geographical fit for us," said UNA head coach Chris Willis, whose Lion teams played road games in New Jersey, North Carolina, Virginia and Louisiana last season. "This year's schedule is more drivable for our team and our fans. It's also exciting to have an FBS team on our schedule in Memphis." Willis said he is also excited about the caliber of the ASUN Conference.
"We have five conference games against schools that are all FCS playoff caliber teams, top to bottom," Willis said.
UNA will open its season on the road on Thursday night, September 1 at Terre Haute, Ind., against Indiana State.It will be the Lions first meeting against the Missouri Valley Football Conference school that posted a 5-6 record a year ago.
The Lions home opener will be on Saturday, September 10 against Virginia-Wise at Braly Stadium.
That game will also be UNA's annual Band Day Extravganza.
After a road trip to face Chattanooga on September 17, UNA will celebrate Homecoming against Tarleton State on September 24. The Lions faced the Texans in 2012 and 2013, losing at home at Braly Stadium, before picking up a win in Stephenville, Texas the following season.
"We need to get off to a good start in our non-conference games," Willis said. "We have four non-conference games straight to open the season, then a week off before we start playing ASUN games. Last year our bye week was late in the year and didn't really help us. This year is setup a lot better."
After a bye week, UNA will open ASUN Conference play at Kennesaw State on October 8. The Owls squeaked out a 28-24 win in the final minute against the Lions last season.
North Alabama hosts cross-state rival Jacksonville State on October 15 in what will be the first and only meeting between the two schools as ASUN Conference foes. The Gamecocks will transition to the FBS as a member of Conference USA in 2023. This year's battle will be the 50th between the two schools in a rivalry that dates back to UNA's first football game when the sport was reinstated in 1949.
On October 22, the Lions will travel to Richmond, Ky., for the first time to face ASUN Conference foe Eastern Kentucky. The following week UNA will travel to Conway, Ark., for a conference game against old Gulf South Conference member Central Arkansas. UNA holds a 15-5 advantage in the series and won the last meeting 41-38 in overtime in the NCAA Playoffs against the Bears in Conway in 2005.
The Lions will then host back-to-back home games against ASUN member Austin Peay on November 5 and non-conference Tennessee Tech. UNA holds a 13-6 advantage in the all-time series against Austin Peay in the 19 games played between 1949 and 1978. In the last meeting in Clarksville in 1978, UNA pulled out a 10-6 win over the Governors.
UNA will be facing Tennessee Tech for the eighth time overall, but for the first time since 1959. The Golden Eagles hold a 4-2-1 advantage in the series, with the two schools battling to a 14-14 tie in the last meeting in Cookeville in 1959.
The Lions will close their regular season on the road on November 19 against the Memphis Tigers at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. It will be UNA's eighth all-time game against an FBS opponent and fourth since moving up to the FCS level.
Sept. 1 Thu at Indiana State Terre Haute, Indiana 5:00 PM
Sept. 10 Sat VIRGINIA-WISE HOME (BAND DAY) 6:00 PM
Sept. 17 Sat at Chattanooga Chattanooga, Tennessee TBA
Sept. 24 Sat TARLETON STATE HOME (Homecoming) 6:00 PM
Oct. 1 Sat Bye
Oct. 8 Sat *at Kennesaw State Kennesaw, Georgia TBA
Oct. 15 Sat *JACKSONVILLE STATE HOME TBA
Oct. 22 Sat *at Eastern Kentucky Richmond, Kentucky TBA
Oct. 29 Sat *at Central Arkansas Conway, Arkansas TBA
Nov. 5 Sat *AUSTIN PEAY HOME 4:00 PM
Nov. 12 Sat TENNESSEE TECH HOME 4:00 PM
Nov. 19 Sat at Memphis Memphis, Tennessee TBA
* indicates games against ASUN Conference schools.