April 06, 2017

(STATS) - Tennessee State won't be taking it easy in the John Merritt Classic this year.

Athletic director Teresa Phillips said Thursday that Tennessee State's previously scheduled home opener against Eastern Illinois on Sept. 30 will serve as the Classic. The matchup between Ohio Valley Conference teams will be played at Nissan Stadium in Nashville.

"Our traditional Labor Day weekend opening plans were adjusted in order to play a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent," Phillips said of the Tigers' Aug. 31 game at Georgia State. "Playing the (Eastern Illinois) Panthers provides us with the opportunity to garner high visibility for our athletic program and the university as a whole, as well as provide us with additional revenue."

Tennessee State is 13-5 all-time in the John Merritt Classic, including a 44-0 shutout of Arkansas-Pine Bluff last year. Tennessee State coach Rod Reed has a 6-1 record in the Classic.

While the announcement of this year's John Merritt Classic was delayed, Phillips announced MEAC teams have been secured for the 2018 and '19 Classics. The Tigers will face Bethune-Cookman on Sept. 1, 2018, and Hampton on Aug. 31, 2019.

Also Thursday, Tennessee State completed its 2017 schedule by adding an on-campus game against Virginia-Lynchburg on Nov. 4 at Hale Stadium. The Tigers are hoping to build on a 2016 season in which they finished 7-4 overall and 4-3 in the OVC.

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2017 Tennessee State Schedule

Aug. 31, at Georgia State

Sept. 9, Jackson State (at Liberty Bowl, Memphis)

Sept. 16, Florida A&M (site TBA)

Sept. 23, at UT Martin*

Sept. 30, Eastern Illinois*

Oct. 7, at Eastern Kentucky*

Oct. 14, Austin Peay*

Oct. 28, at Tennessee Tech*

Nov. 4, Virginia-Lynchburg

Nov. 11, Southeast Missouri*

Nov. 16, at Jacksonville State*

* - OVC game

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