The shutdown of the federal government that began at midnight already has an early casualty: the Air Force Academy’s athletic schedule.
The military academy announced Saturday morning that it would be canceling intercollegiate athletic events “until further notice” due to the government shutdown. That included Saturday’s home slate of men’s basketball, men’s and women’s swimming, men’s ice hockey and men’s gymnastics. The women’s basketball team was set to play at Fresno State; that game also was canceled.
Air Force said it would attempt to reschedule as many games as possible once the shutdown was over.
“Athletics are a huge part of how we develop future officers at USAFA,” Air Force Academy spokesman Lt. Col Allen Herritage said via email. “They instill character traits that will serve these Airmen well throughout their entire careers. That said, due to the government shutdown we’ve had to cancel activities not directly related to national defense.”
Herritage added that, while many of the athletic department’s personnel are civilians, the school was canceling activities “given the limitations imposed by the shutdown.”
Federal agencies began shutting down overnight for the first time since October 2013; that standoff lasted 18 days before a spending bill was passed. The longest shutdown lasted 21 days, from Dec. 5, 1995, to Jan. 6, 1996. Congress reconvened Saturday morning in hopes of reaching a deal to reopen the federal government.
Along with canceling games, Air Force athletic teams will not be able to conduct their regularly scheduled practices during the shutdown. The men’s and women’s basketball teams have games scheduled for Wednesday vs. Utah State and next Saturday vs. Boise State. Men’s ice hockey plays Friday and Saturday at Niagara (N.Y.).
Naval Academy and U.S. Military Academy teams will continue to compete as scheduled.
“The Naval Academy Athletic Association is a 501c3 and uses non-appropriated funds,” Navy athletics spokesman Scott Strasemeier said in an email. “We have a few coaches that are government workers because they also teach physical education classes and they won’t be able to coach, but we have enough coaches in those sports to cover those that can’t coach.”
The U.S. Military Academy released a statement Saturday afternoon saying it is “prepared to execute a contingency plan for a lapse in appropriations in order to continue its mission” and that cadets “will continue to attend classes and participate in scheduled extracurricular activities.” That includes intercollegiate athletics.
“The athletic department is largely made up of non-appropriated funded and contracted personnel, who are generally unaffected by the government shutdown,” the statement said. “All operations involving security, health and safety are functional.”
All three athletic departments operate as separate, private entities from the government-run academies. The Naval Academy Athletic Association was founded in 1891 as a nonprofit organization to “promote, influence and assist in financing the athletic contests of the midshipmen of the United States Naval Academy.” The Air Force Academy Athletic Corporation began operation in 2013, and the Army West Point Athletic Association began in 2017.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed a portion of a quote to Strasemeier that was actually part of the statement released by the U.S. Military Academy.