UCLA adds two historically Black FCS schools to football schedule for the first time

Ben Bolch
·2 min read
The Rose Bowl sits empty on New Years day.
UCLA will host Alabama State in 2022 and North Carolina Central in 2023 at the Rose Bowl. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

UCLA is breaking with one tradition and starting another in scheduling its first football games against two historically Black universities, a move that will end its long run of having never played a Football Championship Subdivision school.

The Bruins added Alabama State to their 2022 schedule and North Carolina Central to their 2023 schedule, with both games slated to take place at the Rose Bowl. Each team’s nationally recognized band will perform at the game.

“Adding two HBCUs [historically Black colleges and universities] to our football schedule is special,” UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond, whose late mother, Virginia, graduated from North Carolina Central, said in a statement. “It’s exciting to give our student-athletes and fans a new experience and to bring a little bit of the South to Southern California.”

Alabama State’s band, called the Mighty Marching Hornets, was featured in Beyonce’s Netflix concert film “Homecoming” and has previously performed in the Rose Parade. North Carolina Central’s band, known as the Sound Machine Marching Band, has also appeared in the Rose Parade as well as other showcases.

The games replace UCLA’s previously scheduled series with Michigan, which backed out of its contract with the Bruins in 2019.

USC nearly made a similar move to schedule a FCS school for the first time in its history, temporarily adding UC Davis to its schedule before new athletic director Mike Bohn reversed course and opted to have the Trojans play San Jose State instead. Once UCLA plays Alabama State on Sept. 10, 2022, USC and Notre Dame will become the only Football Bowl Subdivision schools to have never played an FCS opponent.

UCLA’s 2021 nonconference schedule starts Aug. 28 at the Rose Bowl against Hawaii, followed by home games against Louisiana State on Sept. 4 and Fresno State on Sept. 18.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.