Notre Dame To Play Howard University On Martin Luther King Day
What was originally planned as a two-game home-and-home series between Notre Dame and Howard University as a way to reconnect with former players has turned into something more.
On Friday morning, Howard University announced it will host the Fighting Irish in Washington D.C., on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 18, 2021. The game will be played at Howard’s Burr Gymnasium (2,700 capacity), with time and broadcast details to be determined.
It will be the first time Notre Dame plays a road game against one of the country's Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), and it comes at a time when racial issues are at a fervor in the country.
The two schools agreed to the home-and-home last year because Howard’s head coach, Kenny Blakeney, was an assistant for current Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey at Delaware from 1997-2000. Furthermore, 2010-14 Notre Dame point guard and 2016-19 video coordinator Eric Atkins, also from the D.C. area and a three-time captain, is a current assistant for Blakeney.
The Bison, who finished 4-29 last season, played Notre Dame last Nov. 12 at Purcell Pavilion, a 79-50 Fighting Irish win.
There was an original plan to play Howard Dec. 12 as part of a tour through D.C., including a matchup with former Big East rival Georgetown. But when that fell through, Brey and the university found a resourceful resolution. (Kentucky was put on the slate for Dec. 12 instead.)
“We have been looking for the best way to fulfill our game contract with Howard and this seemed like the perfect fit,” Brey said in a released statement from the school.
“As our program searched for the best way to remain active participants in the push for social change, a visit to one of our nation’s top HBCUs on Martin Luther King Jr. Day will provide an incredible educational experience for our student-athletes, coaches, support staff and university.”
In addition, leading up to the 2020 presidential election, Notre Dame and Howard will help support When We All Vote’s goal to change the culture around voting using a data-driven and multifaceted approach to increase participation in elections.
Notre Dame has hosted 10 different HBCU’s for 12 games, but this debut on the road against one on Martin Luther King Day is also significant because Washington, D.C., is second to none when it comes to producing the greatest lineup in Fighting Irish men’s basketball annals.
Brey and associate head coach Rod Balanis both played and graduated from nearby superpower DeMatha High School, while junior point guard Prentiss Hubb graduated from Gonzaga High.
Atkins and Jerian Grant — the most recent Notre Dame first-round NBA pick — also are from the D.C. area.
The D.C. pipeline of premier African-American basketball matriculating to Notre Dame began in 1965 with the late Bob Whitmore, who in 2019 was inducted into the program’s Ring of Honor.
Following him in 1967 were the triumvirate of Austin Carr, Collis Jones and Sid Catlett, the No. 1, 17 and 55 picks in the 1971 NBA Draft, with Carr still the school’s all-time leading scorer and No. 2 in scoring average (34.6 points per game) in NCAA history, behind LSU’s Pete Maravich.
The 1970s continued the trend with Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Adrian Dantley, Don “Duck” Williams and Tracy Jackson, while the 1980s included Tom Sluby and Monty Williams, the current head coach of the Phoenix Suns.
Notre Dame President Emeritus Rev. Edward A. Malloy, C.S.C., also is from D.C. and played basketball for the Irish in the early 1960s.
Here are Notre Dame’s known non-conference games or events for the 2020-21 season:
• Home versus Army, date TBA (reported by Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports)
• Nov. 17 vs. Eastern Washington
• Nov. 20 vs. Liberty
• Nov. 23 vs. Connecticut, Vanderbilt or USC in the Legends Classic at Brooklyn, N.Y.
• Nov. 24 vs. Connecticut, Vanderbilt or USC in the Legends Classic at Brooklyn, N.Y.
• ACC/Big Ten Challenge home game in late November or early December (opponent TBA)
• Dec. 12 at Kentucky
• TBA vs. Purdue in Indianapolis (likely Dec. 19 but not official)
• Jan. 18 at Howard.
Two more non-conference opponents are still to be announced.