Adam Lindner | Sports Editor
Feb. 18, 2021
The Duquesne football team played its first Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) opponent in 2014, falling to Buffalo, 38-28.
It wasn’t until the 2018 season that the Dukes played another FBS opponent, faltering against both the UMass Minutemen on Aug. 25, 2018, and then the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors on Sept. 22.
The team was slated to face both Air Force and Coastal Carolina — the latter of which spent much of last season ranked in the AP Top 25 — in 2020, only for the Northeast Conference to postpone its football season until the spring.
The Dukes’ non-conference games were scrapped, as was their typical fall slate. For the first time since 1968 — the year before Duquesne revived its football program in ‘69 — an autumn passed with no football to be found on the Bluff.
The team’s abbreviated, NEC-only schedule — announced Feb. 1 — will see the team play four regular-season games, beginning on March 7 against Sacred Heart and ending March 28 at Bryant.
The league will host a championship game at a currently-undetermined date in April to crown its conference champion. Per usual, the NEC’s victor will receive an automatic bid to the FCS playoffs, which begin April 24.
The NEC’s — and, by extension, Duquesne’s — goal is to return to normalcy by the coming fall, when the league will presumably permit its teams to resume competition during its typical autumn time-frame. A full NEC schedule and non-conference slates, following a one-year hiatus, are set to return.
The Dukes’ opponents, though?
Those will be anything but typical.
Duquesne — yes, the same program with three FBS matchups to its name — will open the 2021 (fall) season at Big 12 linchpin TCU on Sept. 4 in Fort Worth, Texas. The Dukes’ matchup with TCU will mark the first time since Duquesne joined the FCS — short for Football Championship Subdivision — level in 1993 that the team will face a Power Five (ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12 or Pac-12) conference opponent.
Duquesne is also scheduled to face FBS member Ohio a week later, on Sept. 11, at the Bobcats’ Athens campus.
The school announced Tuesday that it would open its 2022 season at Florida State on Aug. 27, 2022; additionally, it will make a return trip to Honolulu to face Hawaii on Sept. 17, 2022, about four years after its initial trip to The Aloha State in 2018.
The date with Florida State, a traditional powerhouse program in the collegiate football ranks, presents a unique opportunity for a Duquesne program unaccustomed to competing against marquee opponents.
A reported 2023 matchup at Big 12 pillar West Virginia will do the same.
In 2018, before the Dukes departed from Pittsburgh for its season-opening UMass game, Head Coach Jerry Schmitt told The Duke that the opportunity to play an FBS opponent wasn’t something the program took for granted: “The fact that it’s an FBS opponent is great, for our guys to play in that environment against a bigger school.
“We know it’s a tough challenge for us, but we’re looking forward to it,” Schmitt continued.
It’s abundantly clear that Duquesne is making a point of scheduling high-level competition for its non-league dates in the coming years. The program already does a phenomenal job of recruiting FBS transfers, boasting a roster littered with power conference transplants.
Future schedules marked with dates against some of college football’s biggest names figure to only advance the Dukes’ gridiron profile.
It will provide the team with opportunities for upset wins and big pay days, too.
The Dominion Post (W.Va.) reported in 2018 that Duquesne’s 2023 game at WVU will pocket the Dukes $425,000.