“We are disappointed not to face Tulsa this weekend, however protocols and guidelines are very comprehensive both at the Naval Academy and within the American Athletic Conference,” Navy Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk said in a statement. “There are a number of medical personnel that have reviewed all the related issues and, in the end, an administrative decision has been made that clearly reflects the safety and welfare of all involved with both institutions.”
Navy had taken several safety measures since the team returned in late summer and had hoped the natural bubble of the academy — physical walls enclose the campus — would keep the global pandemic at bay. The team eliminated tackling and face-to-face blocking during training camp and in practices leading up to the season opener against BYU. The Midshipmen were physically unprepared; lost, 55-3; and returned to full-contact, normal practices afterward. Coach Ken Niumatalolo had previously conducted all team meetings through video teleconferences but recently returned to in-person meetings.
Navy had avoided any major issues related to the pandemic that had caused it to move games after the initial push of rescheduling. The Mids have open Saturdays on Nov. 28 and Dec. 5, but Tulsa doesn’t have an open week until after its scheduled season finale against Cincinnati on Dec. 5. Navy plays Army on Dec. 12, and the American Athletic Conference championship game is Dec. 19.
Navy’s next scheduled game is Nov. 14 at home against Memphis.
Air Force and Army also will have the weekend off after their scheduled game in West Point was postponed Thursday. The Air Force explained an “upward trend” of coronavirus cases at the academy and in surrounding areas led to the postponement of Saturday’s game.
The two schools hope to reschedule, but Air Force has a game scheduled every week through its season finale against Utah State on Dec. 3. Army has a long stretch without a game between Nov. 21 and its final game Dec. 12 against Navy.
“We are disappointed to postpone this game, but the health and safety of our cadets, staff and the community continues to be our No. 1 priority at the Academy,” Air Force Athletic Director Nathan Pine said in a statement. “Due to the upward trends in our COVID numbers across the campus, we have paused all intercollegiate team activities.”