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Army, Navy and Air Force football on this weekend

Oct. 2, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Marcus Thomas, Evan Palelei, Wave Ryder
From left, Navy's Marcus Thomas (26), Evan Palelei (58) and Wave Ryder (8) head onto the field at the start of an NCAA college football game against Indiana in Bloomington, Ind., on Sept. 7. (Doug McSchooler / AP)
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BALTIMORE — Football is on for Army, Navy and Air Force this weekend although some other service academy sports are still suspended because of the government shutdown.

The Defense Department said Thursday everything was on hold at Navy through Sunday except for Saturday’s football game against Air Force. According to Navy’s website, 19 events were either postponed or canceled on Saturday and Sunday, including men’s and women’s soccer games, swim meets and a women’s volleyball match at home against Colgate.

Air Force has women’s volleyball and soccer matches scheduled for Saturday and Sunday that will be postponed.

Navy and Air Force received the go-ahead to play football because the game is not funded by the government. A sellout crowd is expected.

“We’re just grateful that the Department of Defense is allowing us to move forward,” Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said. “Speaking on behalf of the athletic department, the fans and the majority of Annapolis, this is a huge relief that we’re able to play.”

Army will play its game at Boston College, too.

“I’m thrilled our students and those from the service academies will get to play their games this weekend,” BC athletic director Brad Bates said. “Thank you, fans, for your patience and understanding the past couple of days.”

Army confirmed the announcement later Thursday, saying, “Based on a decision by the Department of Defense, Army’s football team will play at Boston College Saturday afternoon.”

Ryan Yanoshak, assistant athletic director for athletic communications at Army, said the football team conducted its usual Thursday practice in the morning and the team would depart for Boston College on Friday afternoon.

But unlike with Navy, Army announced all previously scheduled contests that had not been canceled would go on as planned.

Service academy football games are paid for with nonappropriated funds and have been long planned. Such funds generally come from outside sources and are not approved through Congress.

Gladchuk said his department assured the Pentagon that no government money will be spent on any aspect of the game.

“We provided them with extensive and detailed information to help them justify their decision,” Gladchuk said.

Gladchuk said a Navy home game typically brings in about $4 million from tickets, sponsorship, television and radio rights fees and other revenues such as parking and concessions.

Football revenue funds Navy’s 32 other sports teams.

Saturday’s game is particularly important because it will help decide the winner of the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy, awarded annually the service academy with the best record in games involving Air Force, Navy and Army. The winner of the last 13 Navy-Air Force games has gone on to win the coveted trophy.

Gladchuk said the Navy football team continued to practice this week with the notion that the game would go off as planned Saturday.

“It never entered their minds it wouldn’t be played,” he said. “All they were thinking is that kickoff is at 11:30. But obviously, the final announcement came as a relief and erased the shadow of uncertainty.”

Earlier in the week, Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo decided the best approach would be to ignore the possibility of a cancellation and proceed as if the game would be played.

“We try to keep our preparation between the white lines because the things outside the while lines, obviously we have no control over,” he said.

Senior wide receiver Matt Aiken, a captain on the squad, said, “At the Naval Academy we deal with a lot of obstacles like this. It’s something we just have to overcome.”

The service academies have played before during a government shutdown. The Midshipmen played at Air Force in 1990 under similar circumstances and hosted Tulane in November 1995 during a seven-day shutdown.

It’s unclear if the service academies’ games could still be in jeopardy beyond this weekend.

Army plays at home against Eastern Michigan on Oct. 12 and Navy plays at Duke on the same day. Both of those schools are independents in football.

Air Force moves back into Mountain West Conference play on Oct. 10, with a home game against San Diego State.

Mountain West officials are monitoring the situation closely and brainstorming ideas to deal with the possibility of the Falcons not being able to play games.

“This could get really deep and complicated really quickly,” MWC Commissioner Craig Thompson said in a phone interview.

Thompson said a conference call is scheduled with the league membership on Monday and if the shutdown has not been resolved they will discuss how to proceed with Air Force’s ability to play games uncertain.

“You can only plan so far out, but you also need to be proactive,” Thompson said.

AP College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo contributed to this report.

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