The Air Force-Navy football game will be played Saturday morning as scheduled after having been put on hold because of the federal government shutdown.
The decision late Wednesday night came after the Department of Defense reviewed submissions detailing how each of the service academies would support athletics without federal funds, a Pentagon spokesman said.
The Associated Press, citing an unnamed senior defense official, was the first to report that the game, the first leg of the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, will go on at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
“It’s official,” Navy athletic department spokesman Scott Strasemeier confirmed when reached by telephone late Wednesday night.
The teams will be allowed to play because the games are paid for with non-appropriated funds and have been long planned. Army’s game at Boston College also will be played, but there was no indication the suspension of athletics at the service academies would be lifted beyond this weekend.
There had been considerable concern among officials in Annapolis about having to cancel the matchup, typically a financial windfall for the Naval Academy Athletic Association as well as the local economy. The NAAA is a 501(c)3 organization that funds the Navy athletics department.
The shutdown forced Navy to cancel its men’s soccer game Tuesday night against Howard. Navy also canceled its women’s soccer game Wednesday against American. Army, meantime, called off its men’s soccer game Tuesday night.
Athletic operations have continued at Navy despite the shutdown because the NAAA is not affiliated with the federal government. Air Force recently created an athletic association similar to Navy’s, though its athletic administrators, including Athletic Director Hans Mueh, have been furloughed during the shutdown.
Navy Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk, in a telephone interview Tuesday, said cancelling the Air Force-Navy game would cost the athletic department $4 million, and that businesses in and around the state capital would take a similar hit.
Athletic department officials are expecting a record crowd for the game at the 34,000-seat facility. Additionally, 200 recruits and their families are expected to attend, along with some of the academy’s most generous donors.
“It's impossible to even calculate the downside of not playing the game,” Gladchuk said. “Tickets are one thing, TV is another thing, suites and corporate sponsorship, but when you look at the setback to local economy here. All the restaurants are booked. All the hotels are booked. It's really going to be a huge, huge issue.”
The decision may have been erroneously tipped off earlier Wednesday via social media.
“We'll see you at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium this Saturday at 1130 or on CBS #CICtrophy #BeatAirForce,” read the tweet from the U.S. Naval Academy's official Twitter account.
But shortly thereafter, the tweet was deleted.
“I have no idea. I am currently trying to find out how and why that happened,” John Schofield, public affairs officer for the U.S. Naval Academy, said when asked about the errant tweet. "It was not from me. The content from the original tweet is not factually correct.”
Schofield, who administers the academy's Twitter feed, said he was investigating the circumstances of the tweet, adding the public affairs office has been short-staffed because of the shutdown.