Navy-Notre Dame football game to be played in Annapolis for first time
By BILL WAGNER | The Capital | Published: June 2, 2020
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Tribune News Service) — The Navy-Notre Dame football game is coming to Annapolis for the first time since its founding almost a century ago.
Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium will host the 94th meeting between the schools, marking the only time the Midshipmen have met the Fighting Irish on their home field, The Capital has learned. Navy and Notre Dame jointly made the official announcement on Tuesday morning.
The original location for the game, billed as the 2020 Aer Lingus College Football Classic, was scheduled Aug. 29 at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland, but obstacles surrounding travel amid the coronavirus pandemic forced the move back to the United States.
Navy will welcome Notre Dame to Annapolis over Labor Day weekend with the game being played Saturday or Sunday and televised nationally by ESPN or ABC, several sources close to the decision said.
Naval Academy athletic director Chet Gladchuk was disappointed the game could not be played in Ireland, but said in a press release the health and safety of all involved was the highest priority. Gladchuk added there are still many unknowns surrounding the college football season as a whole.
“I am expecting that we will still be able to play Notre Dame as our season opener, but there is still much to be determined by health officials and those that govern college football at large. Once we have a definitive plan in place, we will announce the specifics pertaining to the game," Gladchuk said in the release.
“I realize many are disappointed and were looking forward to the spectacle of this event and a visit to the Emerald Isle, but I do know there is a complete understanding of why it’s in our best interests to make every effort to relocate the game,” Gladchuk added.
Since the series began in 1927, Navy “home” games have almost exclusively been held in National Football League stadiums. This year was supposed to have been the third time Navy hosted Notre Dame in Dublin, following games in 1996 and 2012.
Aviva Stadium, which has a seating capacity of 51,700, was sold out with more than half the spectators expected to come from the United States.
The Naval Academy Athletic Association explored the possibility of moving this year’s game to M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. However, the likelihood that attendance will be limited made the need for a 71,000-seat stadium unnecessary.
A decision regarding how many fans will be allowed into Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium for the Notre Dame game will be made later this summer, though attendance will be limited to far less than capacity.
In recent years, Navy’s home game against Notre Dame has been played at San Diego County Credit Union Stadium in San Diego (2018), EverBank Field in Jacksonville (2016), FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland (2014) and The New Meadowlands (now MetLife Stadium) in East Rutherford, New Jersey (2010).
Navy hosted Notre Dame at Municipal Stadium in Baltimore 13 times from 1927 through 1949. Municipal Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio served as site of the annual meeting nine times from 1932 through 1952.
Navy-Notre Dame football has also been played at Soldier Field in Chicago, JFK Stadium and Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, the Citrus Bowl in Orland, Florida and M&T Bank Stadium.
It is unclear whether the Naval Academy Athletic Association will schedule a future Notre Dame game in Dublin to make up for this year’s being lost. Athletic director Chet Gladchuk has not announced the site of the 2022 contest between the two schools.
Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick indicated in a statement the Navy-Notre Dame football series will return to the Emerald Isle sooner rather than later.
“The change of venue has been a very difficult decision for our colleagues at the Naval Academy, but we are in full support of their choice. We are also grateful for everything our partners in Ireland have done to make this a smooth transition," Swarbrick said in the release. “We look forward to going back to Ireland for a game in the not too distant future.”
There will be a 2021 Aer Lingus College Football Classic with Big Ten Conference rivals Illinois and Nebraska scheduled to meet Aug. 28 at Aviva Stadium. Leo Varadkar, prime minister of Ireland, is hopeful Navy and Notre Dame will return to Dublin soon.
“College football is one of the greatest spectacles in world sport and we had been thoroughly looking forward to welcoming Navy and Notre Dame here this summer for the first game of the Aer Lingus College Football Classic Series,” Varadkar said in the release. “Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond our control, that is now not possible, but we hope to see both universities return to Aviva Stadium in the coming years. I want to personally thank both Chet Gladchuk and Jack Swarbrick for their efforts to bring the game to Ireland and we hope to welcome both teams back in the near future”
Navy-Notre Dame is the longest, continuous intersectional rivalry in college football history. There are strong ties between the two institutions with Notre Dame vowing to never end the rivalry out of respect for the Naval Academy.
Notre Dame fell on hard times during World War II with attendance dwindling to 2,623 students in 1941. However, the United States Navy rescued the institution by creating the V-7 Indoctrination School on the South Bend campus.
That program brought 12,000 officers to Notre Dame from 1942 to 1946 with the Navy paying the university $487,711 for infrastructure needs and administrative expenses.
Navy put an end to Notre Dame’s 43-game winning streak in 2007, pulling out an epic 46-44 victory in triple-overtime at Notre Dame Stadium. Since then, the Midshipmen have defeated the Fighting Irish three more times — in 2009, 2010 and 2016.