Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey (pictured) and Howard head coach Kenneth Blakeney, fellow DeMatha Catholic High School alums, will reunite on MLK Day 2021 when their teams square off for the first time at Burr Gymnasium. (Daniel Kucin Jr./The Washington Informer)
Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey (pictured) and Howard head coach Kenneth Blakeney, fellow DeMatha Catholic High School alums, will reunite on MLK Day 2021 when their teams square off for the first time at Burr Gymnasium. (Daniel Kucin Jr./The Washington Informer)

A historic moment for Howard University men’s basketball team will occur on Martin Luther King Jr. Day next year when the Bison host the University of Notre Dame at Burr Gymnasium in D.C.

It will be the first time that perennial powerhouse Notre Dame will visit a historically Black institution in program history. Tipoff and game broadcast details will be announced at a later date.

This will be the fourth time Howard will honor Dr. King’s Celebration of Excellence by hosting non-conference contests with iconic, historical institutions.

In the past two seasons, HU has hosted Ivy League teams such as Harvard (2016 and 2019) and Yale (2020) at home and will host its first Power Five opponent inside Burr Gymnasium since welcoming then-Pac-10 foe Oregon State in 2010.

MLK Day is a federal holiday, acknowledging the icon’s birthday for nonviolent activism in the civil rights movement. Former President Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law, and it was first observed three years later on Jan. 20, 1986.

“We are excited to host the University of Notre Dame men’s basketball team in what will certainly be a spirited competition that will energize the fans on both sides of the court,” said Howard President Wayne A.I. Frederick. “As we witness the nation’s outcry for social justice and racial equality, this event will be a fitting demonstration of unity, collegiality and sportsmanship.”

Howard will have the contributions of DMV native Wayne Bristol Jr., who took home MEAC Rookie of the Year honors last season, and head coach Kenneth Blakeney, who will be returning to the team for his second season.

Both Blakeney and Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey both have ties to the D.C. area, having played at DeMatha Catholic High School under legendary and Hall of Fame coach Morgan Wootten, the winningest high school coach in school history.

Playing on MLK Day is a real honor for Blakeney, and he uses Dr. King’s message as a teaching tool for his players. Before every practice, he shares a quote with his team and one quote from Dr. King that is relevant during these challenging times: “Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.”

“We are honored to welcome Notre Dame to Howard University for our annual MLK Day game,” Blakeney said. “Coach Mike Brey and I are brothers. We were both mentored by one of the best educators, Coach Morgan Wooten at DeMatha Catholic High School, who first considered himself a teacher. We understand that this game is bigger than both universities, and I feel that we have a social and civic responsibility to engage our programs in celebrating Dr. King’s birthday.”

Kery Davis, Howard’s athletic director, concurred.

“We’ve made this a tradition, hosting these outstanding institutions on MLK Day,” Davis said. “We thank Commissioner Dr. Dennis E. Thomas for giving us an opportunity to host Notre Dame during Mid-Eastern Athletic conference play. This is a great opportunity for us, and we’re excited to welcome Coach Mike Brey and the Fighting Irish to The Mecca.”

The two schools also announced that they will partner with When We All Vote, a national, nonpartisan nonprofit that brings together citizens, institutions, brands and organizations to increase participation in every election.

Former first lady Michelle Obama, who launched the organization, is committed to closing the race and age voting gap and empowering all eligible voters to cast their ballots by harnessing grassroots energy, establishing strategic partnerships and implementing digital organizing strategies, with the ultimate goal of changing the culture around voting.

“We have been looking for the best way to fulfill our game contract with Howard, and this seemed like the perfect fit,” Brey said. “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.”

Blakeney is all in on the cause and understands how powerful everyone’s vote is today.

“Give us the ballot,” he said. “And we will no longer have to worry the federal government about our basic rights. Being a coach means you’re a teacher, and I’ve been given an incredible opportunity to teach, serve, lead and give back while helping student-athletes achieve their full potential.”

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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