The Tennessee State University Tigers face some tough issues ahead as a new football season approaches.

Head coach Eddie George begins his third season and will open the year on national television as the Tigers go to South Bend for their opener against Notre Dame Sept. 2.

Many on the Notre Dame side questioned why they would even invite the school, given the mismatches in school size and roster quality.

But the game raises a point. TSU wants to elevate its position within the NCAA hierarchy. Football by far is the greatest revenue creator for Power 5 Conferences. 

TSU has been in the OVC since 1988. The conference once was known for fiercely competitive basketball and very entertaining football games.

But a lot has happened to the OVC the last few years and much of it is not good. 

TSU used to battle Austin Peay and Jacksonville State for OVC football honors and Belmont and Murray State in basketball. All those schools except TSU are now no longer in the conference. 

They are down to just seven football playing members, and to be honest, OVC football has never much interested TSU fans. Some years if Austin Peay or Tennessee Tech were battling TSU for the conference top spot in football the crowds might be a bit bigger.

The Tigers have 11 games set for this season, four against OVC teams. Though you never know how tough any schedule is before you play the games, this one looks like it could and should yield a winning season for head coach George.

But can winning a depleted OVC title really provide the degree of exposure and notoriety that Dr. Mikki Allen desires for the athletic program? A number of Tiger supporters dont’ think so. They want the Tigers to consider leaving the OVC and align with an HBCU league. From a geographic situation the ideal partner would be SWAC. The SWAC would allow the Tigers to possibly start new rivalries with old foes, and also bring the festive feeling of classics to the regular season.

Also possibly on the table would be the Tigers picking up the slack for the Denny’s Orange Blossom Classic in Miami.

The game was played from 1933 to 1978, then revived in 2021.The current participants are Florida A&M and Jackson State. But FAMU announced a few days ago they were pulling out of the Classic after this season.

The irony here is Jackson State pulled out of the Southern Heritage Classic at the 11th hour last year, leaving TSU very angry and upset.

They were replaced by Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

Whether TSU wants to get involved in another game against Jackson State, even one in Miami. remains questionable. 

But what isn’t up for debate is the future of the TSU program.  Whether they can truly make the move into the upper echelon of college athletics will depend on how they decide future conference affiliation and the caliber of foes they will face.