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Fan restrictions persist for Army football games at Michie Stadium

By KEN MCMILLAN | The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y. | Published: October 5, 2020

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WEST POINT, N.Y. (Tribune News Service) – Army football fans are going to have to wait at least a few more weeks before possibly getting the go-ahead to attend games at West Point, with the re-scheduling of one missing home game still up in the air.

Army’s home games at spacious Michie Stadium have been limited to only the Corps of Cadets and game personnel, or roughly 5,000 people for the first three contests against Middle Tennessee, Louisiana Monroe and last Saturday’s affair with Abilene Christian. That, too, will be the case for next Saturday’s game with The Citadel.

Keeping the crowds small helps with social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. The cadets are already in a natural safety bubble and are spread around three-quarters of the stadium, and none are permitted behind the opponent’s bench in the east stands.

“There is constant re-evaluation,’’ said Army athletic director Mike Buddie. “We’re monitoring the national landscape, seeing how other schools have done it. And so we do a weekly meeting and we talk about that opportunity.’’

Army has remaining home games with The Citadel (Oct. 10), Mercer (Oct. 24), Air Force (Nov. 7) and Georgia Southern (Nov. 21).

Restrictions on large public gatherings have been put in place by New York state officials – though not bound because West Point is on federal property, those guidelines are being followed by Academy officials. Chief among concerns for allowing fans back is where the spectators hail from and whether those states remain on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s travel restriction list.

“There’s a lot of decision makers that have to be comfortable with it,’’ Buddie said. “But yes, we are still hoping to have the opportunity to provide some sort of (fans), whether it's a 20 percent, 30 percent capacity to allow some of our fans to be able to enjoy the Army experience.’’

“The challenge for us is we have no way to know where patrons are coming from,’’ he continued. “We certainly want to make sure that we have measures in place. We want to assume that they're going to be people who are positive and don't know it, and so we've got to have measures from non-pharmaceutical interventions to social distancing and feel comfortable that, even if that's the case, that we're not putting anyone at risk.’’

First and foremost, Buddie says, is protecting the health of the students and workers at West Point.

“I’m always optimistic,’’ Buddie said. “We have learned from COVID that you can never let your guard down. We have plenty of hoops to still jump through. We also want to be respectful to the leadership of the state of New York, make sure that we’re in constant communication and we’re not overextending ourselves and putting any of them in a difficult position as well.’’

BYU game still on hold

A lingering issue has been the re-scheduling of the home game with Brigham Young, which was postponed from Sept. 19 when tracing of COVID cases were potentially linked to the BYU football team. Buddie said discussions continue with BYU A.D. Tom Holmoe, but no new date has been set, and may not occur.

“We’re trying to stay flexible,’’ Buddie said. “We certainly know what our open dates are but we also know those could change, and so between Massachusetts (an original foe that opted out of fall play, but has since opted back in) and BYU or whatever other adjustments are out there to be made, we want to put our kids in a position to be ready and capable to win the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy – that’s paramount to us.’’

Historically, Army has left at least one open date and some cases two before facing academy foes Air Force (on Nov. 7) and Navy (Dec. 12).

Brigham Young has open dates on Nov. 14, Nov. 28 and Dec. 5. Army has Oct. 31 (a week before Air Force), Nov. 28 and Dec. 5 (the two weeks before Navy). While it seems unlikely that Army would schedule the Cougars on any of those dates, the schools could meet should a last-moment cancellation pop up.

A matchup after the Dec. 12 Army-Navy game would be unlikely with West Point students going into Term Ending Exams (TEEs) and a potential Independence Bowl berth looming – last year, the Bowl was held Dec. 26 but ESPN has yet to select a 2020 date, a bowl spokesman said Monday.

“So everything’s on the table, including BYU,’’ Buddie said. “We’ll just continue to monitor the landscape.’’

kmcmillan@th-record.com

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