College football schedule 2023: The Hawaii Exemption and Week Zero

By Kevin Kelley -

The 2023 college football schedule kicks off with Week Zero action on Saturday, Aug. 26. A total of 10 games are on the slate, which is down from 14 games last season.

Week Zero is the unofficial name for the weekend of college football games that are played on the Saturday prior to Labor Day weekend. That’s because it falls one week before when most college football teams kickoff in Week 1.

Per NCAA Bylaw 17.11.4, Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) teams cannot play their first contest until the Thursday preceding Labor Day, which is August 31 this season. Beginning in 2016, an exception to this rule was added (Bylaw that allows Hawaii and teams that play in Hawaii, plus their opponents, the option to play one week earlier on the Saturday before Labor Day weekend.

This season, the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors will travel to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores in Week Zero at FirstBank Stadium in Nashville, Tenn. The game is set for 7:30pm ET and it will be televised by the SEC Network.

Four other matchups have been scheduled for Week Zero since four of the involved teams — New Mexico State, San Diego State, San Jose State, and UAlbany — play Hawaii this season. New Mexico State hosts UMass, San Diego State hosts Ohio, San Jose State travels to take on USC, and UAlbany plays host to Fordham.

A second exception, Bylaw, also provides FCS schools with another opportunity to play in Week Zero. In order for FCS schools to qualify, they must play a nationally televised contest (broadcast or cable; not Internet only) against a non-conference opponent.

For the 2023 season, two contests involving FCS teams meet that qualification and are scheduled for Week Zero — North Alabama vs. Mercer (3:30pm ET, ESPN; in Montgomery, AL) and Jackson State vs. South Carolina State (7:30pm ET, ABC; in Atlanta, GA).

Another exception, Bylaw, provides schools the opportunity to play in Week Zero if the contest is played in a foreign country. One matchup meets that criteria — the Aer Lingus College Football Classic featuring Navy vs. Notre Dame. The game will be played at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland, and will be televised by NBC and streamed by Peacock at 2:30pm ET.

Two other matchups that are scheduled for Week Zero did not meet any of the above qualifications, but the schools and/or their conference applied for and received an exemption from the NCAA. Those matchups include UTEP at Jacksonville State and FIU at Louisiana Tech.

The two Conference USA matchups were likely granted an exception due to six members leaving for the American and four new members joining.

Another NCAA rule, commonly known as the Hawaii Exemption, allows Hawaii and teams that play in Hawaii the opportunity to schedule a 13th regular-season game. This helps those schools earn an extra guarantee payment, ticket revenue, etc., to offset the larger cost of traveling between the continental United States and the island of Oahu in Hawaii.

FBS teams can play a maximum of 12 regular-season games each year, per Bylaw However, Bylaw (g) permits any football games played in Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico to not count against the maximum number of contests.

For the 2023 college football season, only Hawaii, New Mexico State, and UAlbany will take advantage of the Hawaii Exemption. Below are the details:


The Hawaii Rainbow Warriors will play a 13-game regular-season schedule for the third consecutive season. Hawaii will play non-conference games at home against Stanford, UAlbany, and New Mexico State and will travel to Vanderbilt and Oregon.

In Mountain West action, Hawaii hosts San Diego State, San Jose State, Air Force, and Colorado State and will visit UNLV, New Mexico, Nevada, and Wyoming.


The New Mexico State Aggies, new members of Conference USA this season, will play 13 games during the 2023 regular-season. NM State opens the season in Week Zero at home against UMass before Western Illinois visits the following week. The Aggies will also play consecutive non-conference road games at New Mexico and Hawaii before traveling to Auburn later in the season.

In Conference USA action, the Aggies will host FIU, Sam Houston, Middle Tennessee, and Jacksonville State and will travel to take on Liberty, UTEP, Louisiana Tech, and WKU.


As an FCS institution, UAlbany plays an 11-game schedule most seasons. However, they will play an additional game in 2023 due to playing at Hawaii.

In non-conference action, the Great Danes will host Fordham and will travel to take on Marshall, Hawaii, and Morgan State. In Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) action, UAlbany will host Villanova, Rhode Island, William & Mary, and Monmouth and will travel to Towson, New Hampshire, Maine, and Stony Brook.

2023 College Football Schedule | Week Zero

* All times Eastern.

Navy vs. Notre Dame (Ireland) – 2:30pm, NBC/Peacock
N. Alabama vs. Mercer (Montgomery) – 3:30pm, ESPN
UTEP at Jacksonville State – 5:30pm, CBSSN
Fordham at UAlbany – 7:00pm, FloSports
UMass at New Mexico State – 7:00pm, ESPN
Ohio at San Diego State – 7:00pm, FS1
Hawaii at Vanderbilt – 7:30pm, SECN
Jackson State vs SC State (Atlanta) – 7:30pm, ABC
San Jose State at USC – 8:00pm, P12N
FIU at Louisiana Tech – 9:00pm, CBSSN

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Dan-ke, @KevinKelley
for the thorough covrage of the Hawai’i Exemption.

The air Distance from Los Angeles to Honolulu exceeds that of a Flight from the San Juan Islands, Washington to Presque Isle, Maine. I think those are close to the furthest flight Distances in the contiguous 48 United States.

Hawai’i Time = 2.5 Hours earlier than Pacific Time, making the Time difference between LA & Honolulu only a half hour shorter than Pacific time to Eastern time.