Source: Air Force-Navy Football Game Has "50-50 Chance" To Go On
An effort is underway "to use non-government funds to save Saturday's Air Force-Navy football game, which is officially off at this point" due to the federal government shutdown, according to Briggeman & Ramsey of the Colorado Springs GAZETTE. A source said that there is "about a '50/50 chance' that the game will be played with conference fees, conference TV money and ticket revenue making up for a lack of government funding." If that funding "falls through and the government remains shut down" by 12:00am ET tomorrow, the game "will be cancelled or postponed." The source said that "those who are trying to salvage the game are worried there will be public backlash when two service academy teams play a game while the government is shut down." Air Force Assistant AD/Communications Troy Garnhart said that "notification would be sent out from the academy only if the game were to be played, with the assumption being that it will not." Briggeman & Ramsay note CBS was "set to broadcast the game, which had already sold out." But there will be "no television penalty to Air Force if the game is not played," as the school "did not stand to earn television bonus money for the contest since it is not played in a Mountain West stadium." Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson did not "know anything further" about the use of conference funds to play the game other than the initial reports. He added that institutions "generally have between $2.5 and 3 million in conference distributions, and they are permitted to use those funds as they see fit" (Colorado Springs GAZETTE, 10/2).
FINANCIAL BLOW: Navy AD Chet Gladchuk said that the "potential revenue loss to the Naval Academy Athletic Association" if the game is not played would likely be more than $4M. In Annapolis, Bill Wagner notes that money "comes from a combination of ticket sales, sponsorship, parking and concession revenue." The "largest revenue stream is the payout NAAA receives from CBS Sports Television for a nationally televised game." Gladchuk: "It would be absolutely devastating if this game cannot be played." Navy on Monday announced that the game is "a complete sellout and a record crowd in excess of 38,000 is expected to fill Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium." Gladchuk yesterday "spoke twice" with CBS execs and "was told the network is exploring alternative programming in the event it must replace" the game. Wagner reports if the game is not held on Saturday, there is "a strong possibility it might not be played at all this season." The "only mutual date" Air Force and Navy have open based on current schedules is Saturday, Dec. 7. Air Force "will have concluded the regular season at that time," but Navy "would still have to play archrival Army on Dec. 14." Gladchuk said that the "issue of rescheduling has 'not even been discussed' but admitted the prospect of Navy playing its two service academy rivals in consecutive weekends was not ideal" (Annapolis CAPITAL GAZETTE, 10/2). Gladchuk said of playing the game, "It's not a decision being made on the academy grounds or within the athletic department. It's all being driven by the Pentagon" (Baltimore SUN, 10/2).
ARMY-BC ALSO AT RISK: In Boston, Rich Thompson writes the timing of the government shutdown "couldn't be worse" for Boston College as it prepares to host Army on Saturday, as it has "many special events on the schedule around homecoming weekend." BC AD Brad Bates "has been in contact" with Army AD Boo Corrigan, but there is "little either can do to alter the predicament." Bates: "Obviously our intention is to exhaust all possibilities to play the game and we will communicate the information promptly as soon as we have resolution" (BOSTON HERALD, 10/2). Bates indicated that it was not an option for BC to "offer to pay Army’s travel expenses to Chestnut Hill." Bates: "Actually, it’s not a financial issue." Army Public Affairs Officer Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesperson, said that lawyers were "considering a series of legal questions, including whether money that comes from sources other than Congress could be used to pay for sports during the shutdown." During a six-day government shutdown in November '95, Army, Navy, and Air Force "played football games -- all at home" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/2).
LET 'EM PLAY: The Gazette's David Ramsey said there were officials yesterday "in the highest levels of the Pentagon ... trying to work this out." Ramsey: "At the highest levels of the Pentagon, there are many, many Navy and Air Force graduates there, of course. So the motivation is certainly there because this game means an awful lot to an awful lot of important people in our government and in the military" ("OTL," ESPN, 10/1). FOXSPORTS.com's Greg Couch writes cancelling the game "would be a PR move and nothing more." It is "a political football that is actually a real football." The game is "in jeopardy of being called off because politically it looks bad if the government can’t provide services, but it can run a service academy football game." But the decisions about "what has actually been shut down during this shutdown are all about politics." Couch: "Forget about the whole essential/non-essential designation, these decisions are based entirely on political reaction. And the truth is that there is no real reason this game can’t be played" (FOXSPORTS.com, 10/2).
NOT EVERYTHING IS CANCELED: In Hartford, Mike Anthony reports the scheduled Coast Guard-Western New England football game Saturday at 1:00pm is "business as usual." Coast Guard Dir of Athletic Media Relations Jason Southard in an e-mail wrote, "As of right now, everything we have on the schedule will be played. Of course that could change in the upcoming days and I will keep you posted" (HARTFORD COURANT, 10/2).