Written by Chris Kubala
The college football season is still nearly three months away at this stage in time. It’s still a matter of whether teams get back on the field and if there will be any fans in the stands thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Different conferences are planning for different potential dates when athletes will return to campus in an effort to get ready for the season. This week, we did learn about a potential shift in venue for one major game that was scheduled for the opening week of the season overseas.
It was announced on Tuesday morning that Notre Dame won’t open their season against Navy on August 29 in Dublin, Ireland due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the teams will still meet this season, the contest will take place at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, likely sometime over Labor Day weekend. The game now likely will take place September 5 or 6 with national television coverage for the contest being handled by likely either ESPN or ABC for that one.
The decision to move the game to Annapolis is a big one for the longest continuous current active rivalry in college football. Notre Dame owns a commanding 79-13-1 advantage in the series but the games have always been held on a neutral field when Navy has been the host team prior to this year. That means that for the first time in the 94-year history between the schools that the teams have taken the field at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. It’s going to be an interesting change for the teams and, in a normal year where fans would be in attendance, you’d have to think that the school would have challenged or broken their attendance record for the stadium, which currently stands at 38,792 for a Navy contest against Air Force in 2017.
It’s a blow for Dublin, which had already sold out 51,700-seat Aviva Stadium for the contest. This would have marked the third time that the two teams would have met in Dublin, with the other meetings coming in 1996 and 2012. As it stands, the two schools are committed to returning to the Emerald Isle in the near future, though it’s unclear as to when that might take place. Next year’s Aer Lingus College Football Classic will feature Illinois taking on Nebraska on August 28, 2021 from the same venue.
Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick had the following to say about the situation: “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. We look forward to going back to Ireland for a game in the not too distant future.”
This marks the first of what could be many games that are shuffled around the college football schedule in the coming months. It’s obvious that any games that require overseas travel are likely to be the first ones to be moved and altered in order to get things back on track. On the plus side, the two sides made the tough decision to move the game as opposed to canceling it, keeping it on the schedule and making it a priority to keep their rivalry alive. There’s something to be said for the history and excitement of a long-term rivalry battling through issues like the coronavirus and keeping their shared history together. It should make for a photographic, historical moment with the first game ever in Annapolis.