The (equivalent of) the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy will be decided Friday at the Air Force Academy.
On the weekend when Army and Navy will play in their annual football game before a national audience on CBS, the women’s basketball portion of the round-robin event will be contested at 4 p.m. in Clune Arena.
With a win over Navy on the 77th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, coach Chris Gobrecht’s Falcons would sweep their two games against their service academy rivals, having beaten Army 71-60 on Nov. 21.
And on Saturday at 2 p.m. — while the football game in Philadelphia is going on, with West Point guaranteed to win or retain the actual Commander-in-Chief’s trophy — Air Force will host Army in men’s basketball.
“That’s a big day,” Air Force forward Caleb Morris said. “It’s going to be fun.”
He then added, “We owe them.”
As Morris mentioned, these games have not been kind to Air Force in recent years. Army has won four straight in the series, including a 79-54 victory last year at Madison Square Garden in New York.
But the series history isn’t as long as most might expect. The teams have played just 10 times, beginning in 1977. By contrast, Air Force has faced Army 53 times in football.
The Falcons haven’t played Navy since 2005, as the programs haven’t found a way to match up in scheduling the way so many other service academies are this weekend.
Navy’s game this weekend at Lipscomb in Nashville, Tenn., marks the westernmost game on its schedule and only game outside of Eastern Standard Time. Saturday’s game at Air Force is also Army’s lone game outside its time zone.
That’s an unheard-of concept for Air Force, which has already played three games in the Bahamas, another in Texas, another in California and will play in Michigan three days before Christmas.
Coach Dave Pilipovich said the large amount of colleges clustered in the northeast allows Army and Navy to play most of their schedules by simply boarding buses.
“We’ve talked (to Navy) about playing it, but then it’s, ‘When are you coming out?’” Pilipovich said. “It’s, ‘No, when are you coming out?’”
Army (4-6) comes to Air Force (4-5) with a 29.7 shooting percentage from 3-point range, down from 38.3 last year. The Black Knights made 16-of-31 3s (51.6 percent) in last year’s blowout win in New York.
“They beat us bad,” Morris said. “It’s going to be a big one.”
On the women’s side, the Falcons (4-4) already stopped a six-game skid against Army this year and will seek their first win over Navy since Jan. 3, 2009 — a span of seven straight losses.
The Midshipmen (3-3) are led by Jennifer Coleman, who is notching 14.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.
This has always been a banner weekend for service academy sports because of the marquee football game. Now, Air Force can find its way into a bit of that action.