Air Force, Army and Navy football will once again go on as scheduled this weekend starting with Thursday night’ game between Air Force and San Diego State. The ongoing government shutdown initially threatened games involving the service academy programs, but all three played last weekend as scheduled. Now it appears football will go on as planned through the end of the month regardless of the status of the shutdown.
On Thursday Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made a decision that will allow football and other sports to continue this weekend and through the end of October. At some point later this month the situation will be re-evaluated if necessary to determine what will happen to athletic activities moving in to November. According to a report by the Associated Press, Pentagon lawyers and military leaders could have issued fines if games were cancelled.
The issue regarding the service academy football programs and their ability to play games despite the shutdown is focused on the use of government funds. Because none of the academies use government funds to play their football games, they are allowed to continue playing. Much of the funding to support the athletics department, and thus football operations, comes from outside of government sources.
Surely this all provides for headaches those involved with managing the football programs at our nation’s service academies. That means the people behind the scenes, such as athletic directors, anyone involved with game day management or travel plans and more. All of this is not likely to have much of an impact on the players, who for the most part are going about their routines when it concerns football. The coaches may have a little bit of an adjustment to their routines, but ultimately this is all out of their hands as well. While this does provide a real world economic angle to what is going on this season at Army, Air Force and Navy, it continues to have little impact to football until a point comes where games are being scratched.
Having contracts to games actually helps the cause for the games to continue to be played. Backing out of games could add up in cancellation fees for all three programs. The last thing anyone in the Pentagon would want to do is cause any further deficits by preventing these football games from being played. If the shutdown lingers though, it would not be unrealistic to see a discussion over whether or not the annual Army-Navy Game should be postponed. But even that is far from a likely scenario. The last time the rivalry game was not played was in 1928 and 1929 and that was because the two academies could not agree on player eligibility rules for the game. Not even World War II prevented the Army-Navy Game from being played, although the first World War did.
In addition to Air Force’s Thursday night game, Army will host Eastern Michigan and Navy travels to Duke this weekend.