MAIDEN VOYAGES: Morgan State’s Damon Wilson (l.) and Grambling State’s Hue Jackson (r.) take their new teams into battle for the first time Saturday. Wilson’s Bears play at Georgia Southern while Jackson’s Tigers play at Arkansas State.

While there are a full 39 games this week in the real kickoff to the 2022 black college football season, more than a third and nearly half of the games will have head coaches making debuts with new squads.

17 new head men

They include Damon Wilson, the former Bowie State head man who is the lone new head coach in the MEAC at Morgan State.

Four new head coaches will patrol the SWAC sidelines this season, three who will debut this week – former NFL head coach Hue Jackson at Grambling State, former Prairie View head man Eric Dooley at Southern and longtime assistant Bubba McDwell who moves up at Prairie View A&M.

New Alabama State head coach, Eddie Robinson Jr. got his head coaching career started with a weather-interrupted 23-13 win over Howard Saturday in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge.

In the CIAA, former Bowie State, Prairie View and North Carolina Central leader Dr. Henry Frazier III is the new head man at Virginia State. Marcus Hilliard returns to his roots as a player and coach as the new head coach at his alma mater, Elizabeth City State. Ditto for Maurice Flowers who left Fort Valley State to return as head coach at his alma mater Johnson C. Smith and Kyle Jackson who is the new interim head man at his alma mater, Bowie State.

Robert Massey, who had head coaching experiences at Shaw, Livingstone and N. C. Central, enters his third year leading the Rams of Winston-Salem State but it will be his first with an interim tag removed.

The SIAC has the largest contingent of new head coaches with seven.

They include former 15-year Tuskegee head coach Willie Slater now at Clark Atlanta and former Miles head coach Reggie Ruffin now at Tuskegee. NFL veteran Sam Shade steps in to helm Miles while former Fort Valley State head coach Kevin Porter is now at Central State. Former N. C. A&T Assistant Head Coach and Running Backs Coach Shawn Gibbs is the new head guy at Fort Valley State while former Howard assistant Aaron Kelton takes over at Savannah State.

Kentucky State Athletics Director Ramon Johnson was introduced as the Thorobreds head coach in the preseason but its not clear whether he will shoulder those duties as the season begins.

All eyes on

The weekend’s biggest match-up is likely at Hard Rock Stadium Saturday in Miami Gardens, Florida where defending SWAC champion Jackson State and head coach Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders opens its season against Florida A&M and head coach Willie Simmons in the Orange Blossom Classic. JSU won the game 7-6 a year in the season-opener for both schools and went on to an undefeated season in the SWAC and the league championship. It was the only SWAC loss a year ago for Simmons’s Rattlers.

FAMU (0-1) opened Saturday in a 56- 24 loss at UNC but went into battle without 25 players that were ruled ineligible or did not receive certification to play just two days before the game (see story in UNDER THE BANNER). How many of those players will play on Sunday was unclear at press time.

In other games involving conference champions, MEAC and Celebration Bowl champion South Carolina State opens on the road Thursday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN+) at Central Florida. SIAC champ Albany State hosts Mississippi College (7 p.m. ET).

The N. C. A&T vs. N. C. Central rivalry moves to Charlotte (N. C.) Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3) in the newly-formed Duke’s Mayo Classic while the Hampton vs. Howard Battle of the Real HU is in Hampton Saturday (6 p.m. ET, FloSports).

Three-time CIAA runners-up Fayetteville State opens at home Saturday (7 p.m. ET) vs. UNC-Pembroke.

Opening Day debuts

Wilson and Morgan State open on the road at Georgia Southern Saturday (6 p.m. ET, ESPN3).

Jackson takes Grambling to Arkansas State Saturday (6 p.m. CT, ESPN3), Dooley and the Jaguars open at home (6 p.m. CT) versus Florida Memorial, and McDowell stays home Saturday (6 p.m. CT, ESPN+) to host Houston area SWAC rival Texas Southern in their annual Labor Day Classic.

Frazier’s first game at VSU is at Lenoir- Rhyne this Saturday (6 p.m. ET). L-RU is tied for 19th in the preseason AFCA D2 poll.

Jackson makes his Bowie State debut when the Bulldogs host New Haven at 1 p.m. Saturday. The three-time defending CIAA champion Bulldogs are ranked eighth in the AFCA preseason NCAA Div. II poll while New Haven is 16th. Hilliard and ECSU get started in Columbia, S.C. at Benedict Saturday (6 p.m. ET) in the Carolina Classic. Flowers takes the JCSU Golden Bulls to Bluefield State Thursday (6 p.m.).

Gibbs and FVSU debut against Ruffin and Tuskegee Sunday (6 p.m. CT, ESPNU) at the second annual Red Tails Classic in Montgomery, Ala. Porter (CSU) and Massey (WSSU) will also go at it Sunday (4 p.m. ET) at the Black College Hall of Fame Classic in Canton, Ohio.

Shade leads Miles into Montgomery, Ala. Saturday (5 p.m. CT, ESPN+) for a Labor Day Classic battle with Robinson and Alabama State. Kelton and Savannah State stay at home Saturday (6 p.m. ET, FloSports) vs. Southeastern. Kentucky State is hosting Delta State Saturday (1 p.m. ET).