After months filled with as much uncertainty as tomorrow, Army and Navy are about to begin their respective football schedules.
Air Force will have to wait.
Army is set to kick off against Middle Tennessee State at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 5, at West Point, New York. Navy is expected to open its season when it hosts BYU at 8 p.m. on Sept. 7 on ESPN in Annapolis, Maryland.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced college football programs to be flexible in myriad ways, none more so than with their schedules. Some conferences and teams will forgo playing this fall, with hopes of returning in the spring, while other schools lost appealing non-conference matchups.
Then there is Air Force, whose schedule consists of two games: Oct. 3 against Navy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Nov. 7 at Army. Air Force belongs to the Mountain West Conference, which postponed fall sports in August.
“We were allowed to look at the possibility to play Army and Navy since we all have similar 47-month physical requirements for graduation, have similar testing protocols and have a cadet population that is secured from the public,” Air Force athletic spokesman Troy Garnhart said in an email.
The Falcons are not looking to add other games, Garnhart said.
Regardless of the pandemic, the service academies have said they plan to play each other this year.
Army and Navy are scheduled to meet for the 121st time on Dec. 12 in Philadelphia. They first met in 1890, when Benjamin Harrison was president, and have played every year since 1930.
Army is scheduled to host eight games at Michie Stadium in 2020, but the Black Knights lost a marquee home matchup against Oklahoma when its conference, the Big 12, canceled non-league road games. The Sooners were scheduled to visit West Point on Sept. 26.
Attendance at Army’s first two home games, the opener against Middle Tennessee State and Sept. 12 against Louisiana-Monroe, will be limited to the corps of approximately 4,400 cadets, athletic spokeswoman Rachel Caton said.
“Attendance at games is typically mandatory for the corps, so all should be expected to be in attendance,” Caton said in an email. “They will just be sitting in a different area of the stadium than usual and will be socially distanced.”
Decisions about fans for the Black Knights’ other home games have not been determined, Caton said.
Unlike Army’s on-campus stadium, Navy does not play its home games on federal land. Because Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium is off campus, the Midshipmen are subject to regulations imposed by the Maryland Department of Health, which banned fans from outdoor sports events in June, Navy spokesman Scott Strasemeier said in an email.
“We are still optimistic there will be home football games this season where our season-ticket holders will be extended the opportunity to personally attend,” Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said in a statement. “Improving conditions may dictate justification to open our gates in a setting with extensive safety protocols being appropriately administered.”
Whether fans will be allowed at Air Force’s home game against Navy is not expected to be decided until mid-September, Garnhart said.
While Navy intends to play a full American Athletic Conference schedule and didn’t lose its games against Army or Air Force, the Midshipmen won’t face Notre Dame because of the pandemic. Navy originally was scheduled to open the season with that matchup in Dublin, Ireland, then it was moved to Annapolis before being canceled.
Navy and Notre Dame had met in football every year since 1927.
Navy and Air Force finished 11-2 in 2019. Army, whose football program does not belong to a conference, went 5-8 last season.
Oct. 3 vs. Navy
Nov. 7 at Army, 1:30 p.m.
Sept. 5 vs. Middle Tennessee State, 1:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
Sept. 12 vs. Louisiana-Monroe, 1:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
Sept. 19 vs. BYU, 3:30 p.m. (CBS)
Sept. 26 at Cincinnati
Oct. 3 vs. Abilene Christian, 1:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
Oct. 10 vs. The Citadel, 1:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
Oct. 17 at UTSA, 1:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
Oct. 24 vs. Mercer, 1:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
Nov. 7 vs. Air Force, 1:30 p.m. (CBS)
Nov. 14 at Tulane
Nov. 21 vs. Georgia Southern, 1:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
Dec. 12 vs. Navy in Philadelphia, 3 p.m. (CBS)
Sept. 7 vs. BYU, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Sept. 19 at Tulane, noon (ABC)
Sept. 26 vs. Temple (CBS Sports Network)
Oct. 3 at Air Force
Oct. 17 at East Carolina
Oct. 24 vs. Houston (CBS Sports Network)
Oct. 31 at SMU
Nov. 7 vs. Tulsa (CBS Sports Network)
Nov. 14 vs. Memphis (ESPN family of networks)
Nov. 21 at South Florida
Dec. 5 AAC championship game
Dec. 12 vs. Army in Philadelphia, 3 p.m. (CBS)