As the North Alabama football team prepares to officially begin the transition to NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision competition next year, they released their entire 2018 schedule on Tuesday.
The Lions will play five home games and go toe-to-toe with six FCS opponents including road trips to defending FCS National Champion North Dakota State and 2017 FCS Playoff partipant Southern Utah. In their remaining four road games the Lions will head to Alabama A&M, Campbell (N.C.), Jackson State (Miss.) and Incarnate Word (Texas).
Add all those miles up and it's clear the Lions are going to have to be true road warriors in their first season of transition to FCS status. Luckily for UNA fans this shouldn't be something they have to deal with year in and year out because starting in 2019 they'll begin competition in the Big South Conference but they must first complete the 2018 season as an independent due to the stage they're at in their transition.
"We're excited to have a finished schedule and we're excited about the team we're playing in 2018," UNA Head Coach Chris Willis said. "Moving up to the FCS being an independent next year made it challenging to get a schedule. We're very happy that we were able to get five home games and I'm sure our players will be excited about getting to travel to placed we don't normally play like Utah, North Dakota, North Carolina and Texas.
"We're excited to have Alabama A&M back on the schedule. That will be a great game for our fans," Willis said. "We're also playing North Dakota State, which is the Alabama of the FCS as the program everybody is chasing. And Southern Utah was a playoff team a year ago in the FCS and that will be a tough opener."
Following the opener against Southern Utah on September 8, the Lions will play two more road games against NDSU and Alabama A&M before returning to the friendly confines of Braly Stadium, marking the first time since 1959 they've opened the year with three straight road games.
North Alabama hosts Azusa Pacific University (Calif.) for their home opener on September 22, marking the first time in school history they've played a school from the state of California.
After the home opener UNA hits the road once again to get their first taste of the Big South Conference with a game against the Campbell Fighting Camels in Buies Creek, N.C.
A two-game homestand will be waiting for them after their trip to the Tar Heel State where they'll face a pair of familiar foes in GSC members West Florida and Mississippi College.
Another road trip waits for them after that with a trip to Mississippi to face another HBCU member in Jackson State, the first ever meeting between the two schools.
Lions fans are treated to another two-game homestand on November 3 and 10 when Shorter and North Greenville make the trip to Braly Stadium.
Then, to wrap up the 2018 season UNA hits the road one final time to face Incarnate Word on November 17 in San Antonio, Texas.
2018 UNA Football Schedule
Sept. 1 - at Southern Utah
Sept. 8 - at Alabama A&M
Sept. 15 - at North Dakota State
Sept. 22 - vs. Azusa Pacific
Sept. 29 - at Campbell
Oct. 6 - vs. West Florida
Oct. 13 - Mississippi College
Oct. - 20 - at Jackson State
Nov. 3 - Shorter
Nov. 10 - North Greenville
Nov. 17 - at Incarnate Word