Private funding could save Air Force-Navy game, which for now is off

October 1, 2013 Updated: October 1, 2013 at 6:53 pm
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Air Force running back Jon Lee heads out to the field as the Falcons prepare to take on Wyoming at Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo. Saturday, September 21, 2013. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette

An effort is under way to use non-government funds to save Saturday's Air Force-Navy football game, which is officially off at this point because of the government shutdown.

A military source said there's about a "50/50 chance" that the game will be played with conference fees, conference TV money and ticket revenue making up for a lack of government funding. If that falls through and the government remains shut down by 10 a.m. Thursday, the game will be cancelled or postponed.

The military source said there are concerns about public reaction if the Air Force-Navy game is played. The source said those who are trying to salvage the game are worried there will be public backlash when two service academy teams play a game while the government is shut down.

Air Force released a statement Tuesday morning saying “at this time, travel for all intercollegiate athletics is cancelled – this includes the Air Force-Navy game.”

The Falcons football team will continue to practice as though the game will be played, but it cancelled its weekly Tuesday afternoon press conference and Troy Calhoun will not do his regular radio show.

Sports information director Troy Garnhart said notification would be sent out from the academy only if the game were to be played, with the assumption being that it will not.

“Right now we’re not playing the game,” Garnhart said.

The 10 a.m. Thursday deadline, according to source, was set because that was the last possible time Air Force’s charter jet could be scheduled to avoid later conflicts.

The game could possibly be made up, with Dec. 7 the likely target.

CBS was set to broadcast the game, which had already sold out. There will be no television penalty to Air Force if the game is not played, and the Falcons did not stand to earn television bonus money for the contest since it is not played in a Mountain West stadium.

“At this stage we’re taking it basically a half a day at a time, holding our breath that they can bring it to resolution,” Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk told the Washington Post. “The game on Saturday, I mean it’s a huge issue. The stage is set for one of the most significant event statements we’ve had in a long time, so the timing couldn’t be worse.”

Calhoun and Air Force athletic director Hans Mueh were not available on Tuesday, but Calhoun said Monday that he saw value in the full preparation for the game even if it isn’t played.

Mueh, the sports information department and assistant football coach John Rudzinski were among those sent home Tuesday on indefinite furloughs. The training and equipment staff for the football team was exempted for safety of the cadets, and their presence is what will allow the Falcons to continue to practice.

Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said he read The Gazette’s report that conference funds could be used to play the game, but he did not know anything further than that. He said institutions generally have between $2.5 and 3 million in conference distributions, and they are permitted to use those funds as they see fit.

Air Force’s next home game is Oct. 10 against San Diego State, and there is a chance that game would be played if the shutdown stretches that long. During a government shutdown in 1995 Air Force hosted Notre Dame with representatives from the Western Athletic Conference, Notre Dame and even Colorado State chipping in to assist with the game-day activities.

Setting that up again would be difficult, as virtually everyone on the administrative side of athletics is on the government-mandated leave.

Thompson said he first learned of the situation on Tuesday morning when Mueh called him to say Air Force would not be permitted to travel. With the short notice, no plans have been set in motion for the conference to lend a hand with the Oct. 10 game at this point.

“We’re not even through this weekend’s games, so no,” Thompson said.

Col. Bart Weiss has essentially become the acting athletic director until Mueh can return.


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