“We’re disappointed, all of us,” Midshipmen Coach Ken Niumatalolo said in a telephone interview from his home in Hawaii. “That’s been on our calendar for a long time, but obviously it’s totally understandable. I think we all recognized it could be a possibility.”
The previous Navy-Notre Dame game at Aviva Stadium in Dublin was in 2012 and featured more than 35,000 fans traveling from the United States. This year, according to school officials, an estimated 40,000 were expected to travel to the game.
In 2012, the Midshipmen lost to Notre Dame, 50-10. Navy is the designated host for this year’s matchup, set to be the 94th in a row in the series.
“What I’ve told our guys, what I’ve told our staff: Don’t worry about when we play, where we play,” said Niumatalolo, who’s scheduled to return to Annapolis this weekend. “We’re playing the best team on our schedule. We better be ready. Just trying to prepare a team in pandemic, which is unique, rare. None of us has a manual on how to do this.”
Navy has lost three straight to the Fighting Irish, but last season it matched a school record with 11 wins, reclaimed the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy and beat Kansas State in the Liberty Bowl. The eight-game improvement for the Midshipmen, who claimed a share of the American Athletic Conference West Division title, from 2018 marked the second-largest turnaround in major college football history.
The Midshipmen head into this season needing to replace graduated quarterback Malcolm Perry, who finished with 4,359 rushing yards, the second most in program history. His 5,320 all-purpose yards also were the second most in school history.
“We are obviously disappointed not to be traveling to Ireland this August,” Navy Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk said in a statement. “But, as expected, our priority must be ensuring the health and safety of all involved. I am expecting that we still will be able to play Notre Dame as our season opener, but there is still much to be determined by health officials and those that govern college football at large.”