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Air Force athletics working to avoid cancellations for another potential shutdown

Falcons guard Venessannah Itugbu stretches for a loose ball as the U.S. Air Force Academy Falcons compete against the San Diego Aztecs at Clune Arena in Colorado Springs, Colo., Feb. 28, 2017.

BILL EVANS/U.S. AIR FORCE

By BRENT BRIGGEMAN | The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) | Published: January 27, 2018

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Tribune News Service) — Another government shutdown just might leave Air Force sports in the same, hands-are-tied position of this past weekend.

Athletic director Jim Knowlton spoke publicly Friday for the first time since the Falcons canceled or postponed all events during a shutdown that lasted about 70 hours from early Saturday morning until Monday evening. What he offered were mostly generalities explaining how the department found itself in that situation. And though he offered hope that private money could be used to continue “many of our events” should the government shut down again in near future, he left the door open to the academy finding itself right back in the same spot.

The deal to keep the government temporarily functioning expires on Feb. 8.

“We could be in the same boat again,” Knowlton said. “The guidance that we will get, should there be a government shutdown, if it’s different from this one we’re going to have to look at it because every one is a little bit different.”

The difference in what Knowlton termed “guidance” from the Air Force and the Department of Defense was what led Air Force to shutter its athletic department over the weekend, even as Army and Navy were able to compete.

Knowlton said plans were in place with the possibility of a shutdown looming to continue events over the weekend. But once Air Force was given the exact parameters under which it would be operating, those plans were deemed unworkable.

“I can’t get into specifics, but we had a great plan,” he said. “The guidance changed just a little bit on Friday, which caused us to have to relook at the entire plan. That’s when what we thought what we were going to executing over the weekend had to change a little bit.”

Knowlton said consideration was given to allowing some events to continue, particularly with some of the teams having already traveled to the site of their competition. But in most cases that would have required an extra overnight stay, which would have gone against the directive to use no appropriated government funds beyond what would have been absolutely necessary to return those teams home.

The board of the Air Force Academy Athletic Corporation wrote a letter the Friday prior to the shutdown to say it was available to “support everything to get you through the weekend,” but Knowlton said that because of the complexity of funding models the department couldn’t guarantee that it could return those teams without using a mix that included government money.

Basketball games against Fresno State have been rescheduled (on the road for the women on Monday and at home for the men on Feb. 26), and a hockey game vs. Sacred Heart should have a makeup date set shortly. The tennis team has already rescheduled a missed event, but Knowlton said most of the other Olympic sports that missed out on competitions will not be able to make them up because of complexities of schedules.

The AFAAC will assist the Falcons in deferring costs for Fresno State’s return trip to the academy in February, Knowlton said.

©2018 The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
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