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Brigade of Midshipmen will not be allowed to attend Navy football home opener against BYU

U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen arrive at the stadium for the Navy-Air Force football game at Annapolis, Md., October 5, 2019.

JOE GROMELSKI/STARS AND STRIPES

By BILL WAGNER | The Capital | Published: September 1, 2020

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Tribune News Service) — State of Maryland officials have denied a request from the Naval Academy Athletic Association to allow the Brigade of Midshipmen to attend Navy football’s season opener against BYU on Labor Day.

It was announced Aug. 19 that no fans would be allowed to attend Monday night’s nationally televised home opener.

However, athletic director Chet Gladchuk said NAAA was petitioning Gov. Larry Hogan’s office for a waiver that would enable the Brigade of Midshipmen to be in the stands at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. The governor’s office did not approve the waiver, Gladchuk acknowledged on Monday, and elected to stick by its June directive barring fans from attending professional or collegiate sporting events held within the state.

“We knew about the directive enacted in June but had asked the governor’s office to consider the fact the midshipmen are in a bubble and tested regularly,” Gladchuk said during a telephone interview on Monday. “However, they were still uncomfortable with allowing the brigade into the stadium because of the guidance that had been established.”

Those members of the 4,400-strong Brigade of Midshipmen that have been brought back to the Naval Academy for the 2020 fall semester were required to quarantine for two weeks. Since then, midshipmen have been routinely tested for the coronavirus and restricted to the academy campus to prevent any infections from outside.

Alana Garas, public information officer for the Naval Academy, said the plan was to have approximately 1,500 midshipmen — roughly two battalions — attend the season opener.

“We thought it would be a unique opportunity for the midshipmen to cheer on their team in person, but understand the current prohibition of fans in the stands. We’re grateful for the opportunity for the teams to play this season,” said Vice Admiral Sean Buck, superintendent of the Naval Academy.

Gladchuk said the midshipmen have not been exposed to the public since July and would not be exposed if the attended the game with no other fans in attendance.

While disappointed, Gladchuk was not about to question or second guess the state’s ruling.

“We understand the governor’s position and we accept the decision. We’ll go without midshipmen for the opener,” Gladchuk said. “We respect it, we abide by it, we’re going to move forward.”

Navy’s second home game is scheduled for Sept. 26 against Temple and Gladchuk remains optimistic the climate will have changed in such a way to allow the Brigade of Midshipmen, and possibly some amount of season ticket holders, to be in the stands at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Navy has five scheduled home games this season.

“As we gain more confidence with the containment of the virus,” Gladchuk said, “perhaps it’s possible the aperture could be widened to allow for consideration of some percentage of fans.”

Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said “obviously, I would have loved for the brigade to be there,” but added “we have to keep people safe and we’re still figuring this out.”

“Maybe Game 1 is not the right time [for fans]. It’s the right call to start out this way,” Niumatalolo said.

Niumatalolo noted Navy football held a scrimmage last week without fans, so the players are growing accustomed to such an atmosphere. “You try to bring your own juice to the game as far as emotion,” he said.

Navy has amassed an impressive record at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium during the current triple-option era that has produced winning records in 15 of the past 17 seasons.

“We’re a hard team to beat at home with our crowd and the midshipmen being behind our bench. It’s a tough place to play,” he said. “I would have loved to have played BYU with a full stadium. Unfortunately, it is what it is. We’re just grateful to be playing.”

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