By Harry Minium
NORFOLK, Va. – The Old Dominion football schedule released earlier today is the most anticipated since ODU began playing football in 2009. And it’s the kind of home slate you would not have dreamed possible just a year ago.
All six homes games are compelling. The Monarchs host three of Virginia’s four other FBS programs – Virginia Tech, James Madison and Liberty – at S.B. Ballard Stadium, and the Monarchs play at Virginia, the fourth FBS school.
Eight of the 12 ODU opponents either played in bowl games or were slated to play in bowls canceled because of the pandemic, and JMU played in the NCAA FCS playoffs.
The schedule is also balanced. With two games each in September, October and November, ODU will play home football games essentially every other weekend.
ODU President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., is ecstatic about the schedule.
“I am confident that Monarch Nation shares my excitement and pride for what is, without a doubt, the best football schedule in our program’s history,” President Hemphill said.
“Coach Ricky Rahne and his staff continue to build and grow our program to national prominence, similar to the stature of our academic programs and research efforts.
“The 2022 schedule is yet another positive step forward in our pursuit of becoming one of the nation’s elite college football programs.”
ODU officials have also listened to Monarch fans and made changes to the season ticket package. Foremost among those changes is that seat memberships are no longer required for any seats at S.B. Ballard Stadium.
For those fans who paid for seat memberships last year, the price you pay for tickets in 2022 will be reduced – and you’ll see the best football schedule ODU has ever played.
More on tickets later.
The Monarchs open on Friday night, Sept. 2, at home against Virginia Tech. Never has ODU had a home opener that will generate this kind of buzz. The last time the Hokies came to Norfolk, in 2018, the Monarchs claimed a 49-35 upset victory.
That game in 2018 sold out before single-game tickets went on sale to the general public.
This game is the first for new Tech coach Brent Pry, who was defensive coordinator at Penn State when Rahne was offensive coordinator for the Nittany Lions. That coaching matchup will generate a lot of national interest.
ODU officials anticipate this game will sell out before single-game tickets go on sale. And it may not be the only sellout. ODU’s final home game, on Nov. 12 against JMU, is also likely to sell out.
After three non-conference games in a row, ODU’s second home game comes against Arkansas State on Sept. 24.
Don’t know much about Arkansas State? Suffice it to say the Red Wolves went to bowl games for nine consecutive seasons, from 2011 through 2019.
They were 2-10 last season, but that’s an aberration for an otherwise good program.
The following week, on Oct. 1, ODU hosts Liberty. The Flames were 8-5 and won a bowl game last season and defeated the Monarchs, 45-17, in Lynchburg.
Liberty travels well on the road. This is another big in-state game for the Monarchs that could sell out.
ODU’s fourth home game comes on Oct. 29 against Georgia Southern, which you may recall knocked the Monarchs out of the 2011 and 2012 FCS playoffs. The Eagles won six I-AA (now FCS) national championships before moving up to FBS.
The Eagles were 3-9 last season but have a winning tradition – they were 8-5 and crushed Louisiana Tech, 38-3, in the New Orleans Bowl in 2020. Georgia Southern hired Clay Helton from Southern Cal as its new head coach.
Then comes a home game on Nov. 5 against Marshall. Of the 13 Conference USA opponents the Monarchs have faced, Marshall was the only school ODU fans might call a true rival.
The Monarchs led Marshall late in the fourth quarter last season in Huntington before losing, 20-13, in overtime.
The Monarchs end their home schedule against JMU, a program that promises to become a major rival for ODU.
The teams have only met twice – ODU won both games in 2011 and 2012 when the Monarchs and Dukes played in the CAA – but the rivalry was already intense from the opening kickoff of the first game.
Social media banter back and forth between fans of both schools has already been, well, spirited.
JMU is moving up from FCS, where the Dukes won the national championship in 2016 and advanced to the title game in 2017 and 2019. JMU lost to eventual champion North Dakota State in the semifinals of the 2021 FCS playoffs.
JMU also has a good fan base that will travel. Tickets for this game will be in high demand.
As President Hemphill said: “I look forward to experiencing a sold out S.B. Ballard Stadium for each and every home game this fall.”
It could happen.
Athletic Director Wood Selig, Ph.D., said he loves the regional nature of ODU’s schedule.
“ODU is back in the business of bringing the best regional rivals and top-flight FBS football competition to Hampton Roads,” Selig said.
“What an exceptional home schedule. From a pure fan interest standpoint, few home football schedules in the country will rival the lineup that ODU football will provide, with many of the nation’s elite programs.”
ODU’s non-conference slate was scheduled by Bruce Stewart, ODU’s deputy athletic director and chief operating officer.
The road schedule will be attractive for ODU fans who like to travel.
After hosting Virginia Tech, the Monarchs travel two hours south to face East Carolina on Sept. 10. Then, on Sept. 17, they bus 2 ½-hours to the west to face off against Virginia.
Both games are easily drivable and neither school generally sells out their home games.
Then, on Oct. 15, the Monarchs travel five hours south to face Coastal Carolina in Conway, South Carolina. If you have fond memories of ODU’s Myrtle Beach Bowl appearance against Tulsa, and 5,000 of you traveled there, the weather will be warmer and hotel rates still low if you want to do a mini vacation there.
ODU then travels to Georgia State on Oct. 29, Appalachian State on Nov. 19 and then concludes the regular season at South Alabama on Nov. 26, the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
Atlanta is a cool city to visit, and the Panthers play in Center Parc Stadium, which was once home of the Atlanta Braves when it was known as Turner Field.
App State is a perennial powerhouse that is most famous for knocking off Michigan in 2007, but in 2019, swept road games with South Carolina and North Carolina and won the Sun Belt title.
App State is a 6 ½-hour drive from Norfolk, and the mountain scenery there makes it worth a road trip.
South Alabama is located in Mobile, Alabama, a pleasant city with a nice downtown area and only minutes from the Gulf of Mexico. The weather around Thanksgiving can be warm.
In spite of the upgrade in scheduling, tickets will remain affordable.
Bench back season tickets range from $150 to $215 and chair back seats from $300 to $350.
At $150, six games will cost you $25 per game, a bargain for a schedule that includes Virginia Tech, Liberty and JMU.
Although there are no longer seat membership fees, chair back seats will be in high demand and priority in seating will be given to Old Dominion Athletic Foundation members. Call ODAF with any questions: 757-683-6963.
Of the 16,000 sideline seats, only about 5,000 are chair back seats, and they will be at a premium.
If you’re a returning season ticket holder, you can keep your seats as long as you renew them by May 1. You can also seek to upgrade your seats to another section.
ODU also has no plans to re-seat the stadium
For returning season ticket holders, your Game Plan season ticket packages will soon be in the mail and should arrive to you within the next three weeks.
The schedule will be a huge challenge for the Monarchs. It is among the most challenging in the Group of 5, as Selig said. There are Power 5 schools who won’t face as difficult a schedule.
There is no FCS opponent and the nonconference schedule includes two ACC teams, one from the American Athletic Conference and a Liberty squad ranked a portion of last season.
So, it’s good news that Rahne returns most of his starters from last season, when ODU finished 6-7 and went to its first bowl game in five years.
It’s also good that he has recruited well so far, both with high school players and in the transfer portal. Of the 16 players who have signed or enrolled at ODU, 14 were rated three-star recruits by the 247Sports recruiting service.
He has recruited transfers from Notre Dame, Cincinnati and Boston College. The Monarchs begin spring practice this afternoon.
The team showed immense improvement last season, when the Monarchs rallied from a 1-6 start to win five in a row and claim a bowl bid. This team will be more experienced, bigger and faster.
“ODU football has tons of energy and momentum headed into 2022 from winning our last five regular season games last fall and qualifying for the Myrtle Beach Bowl,” Selig said.
Everyone associated with ODU, from the fans and donors to players and coaches, have wanted the Monarchs to play a big-time schedule.
Now we have one.
It’s six months until the Monarchs open against the Hokies, which seems like a lifetime, but it will be upon us sooner than we expect.
Night games are special at S.B. Ballard Stadium. When the game begins, the sun will be setting, the atmosphere will be electric and the stadium buzzing. Will we wear Hudson Blue that night? Undetermined, but wouldn’t that be cool?
As I said, get your season tickets early. This schedule is going to draw a ton of fans.
“ODU football is truly back,” Selig said. “We want our Monarch fans back and filling the stands each and every game this fall.
“It is our time.”
Indeed, it is.
2022 Football Schedule
Friday, Sept. 2, Virginia Tech
Sept. 10, at East Carolina
Sept. 17, at Virginia
Sept. 24, Arkansas State
Oct. 1, Liberty
Oct. 8, open date
Oct. 15, at Coastal Carolina
Oct. 22, Georgia Southern
Oct. 29, at Georgia State
Nov. 5, Marshall
Nov. 12, James Madison
Nov. 19, at Appalachian State
Nov. 26, at South Alabama