North Alabama, Mercer to play in 2023 FCS Kickoff

By Kevin Kelley -

The North Alabama Lions and the Mercer Bears will play in the season-opening 2023 FCS Kickoff, both schools announced on Thursday.

The game will be played in Week Zero on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023 at the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Ala. The contest will be televised on one of the ESPN networks and Mercer will be designated the home team.

“We’re excited to be playing in the first college football game of the season,” said Mercer head coach Drew Cronic. “This is a great opportunity to showcase our football program and the entire FCS.”

Per NCAA rules, FCS games that are nationally televised (not internet only) can be played in Week Zero, which is the nickname for the games played on the Saturday prior to Labor Day weekend.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for Mercer University and our football program,” said Mercer director of athletics Jim Cole. “To work with ESPN and the city of Montgomery to kick off the college football season on a national stage is something we couldn’t pass up.”

North Alabama and Mercer met last season in Week 2 in Clarksville, Tenn. The Bears defeated the Lions in that contest, 24-16, to extend their overall lead in the series to 2-0.

“Our staff and players are excited about the opportunity to play on a national stage in Montgomery for the FCS Kickoff game,” said North Alabama head coach Brett Dearmon. “This will help us in so many ways as a program for years to come. Playing a first-class opponent will be a great challenge for us as well.”

The 2023 contest will mark the sixth time that the FCS Kickoff will be played at the Cramton Bowl. FCS Kickoff games from 2014 through 2016 were played on campus.

“Participating in the FCS Kickoff is a showcase opportunity for North Alabama athletics and the university as a whole,” said UNA director of athletics Dr. Josh Looney. “Bringing the new-look Lion football program to Alabama’s capital city, while participating in a nationally-televised game, offers an incredible platform to display the newest Division I football team and fastest-growing university in the state. We are thankful to Johnny Williams and ESPN for the invitation to kick off our 2023 season in Week 0 and join this outstanding event.”

Past FCS Kickoff Results

  • Aug. 23, 2014 – Eastern Washington 56, Sam Houston State 35 (Cheney, Wash.)
  • Aug. 29, 2015 – Montana 38, North Dakota State 35 (Missoula, Mont.)
  • Aug. 27, 2016 – North Dakota State 24, Charleston Southern 17 (Fargo, N.D.)
  • Aug. 26, 2017 – Jacksonville State 27, Chattanooga 13 (Montgomery, Ala.)
  • Aug. 25, 2018 – North Carolina A&T 20, Jacksonville State 17 (Montgomery, Ala.)
  • Aug. 24, 2019 – Youngstown State 45, Samford 22 (Montgomery, Ala.)
  • Aug. 29, 2020 – Central Arkansas 24, Austin Peay 17 (Montgomery, Ala.)
  • Aug. 27, 2022 – Jacksonville State 42, Stephen F. Austin 10 (Montgomery, Ala.)

Football Schedules

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