By RALPH D. RUSSO and LOLITA C. BALDOR Associated Press
U.S. military academy football teams will play this weekend, despite the government shutdown.
A senior defense official said Wednesday the decision affects this weekend’s games only, and future games will be evaluated as events unfold. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.
Navy later confirmed its home game against Air Force in Annapolis, Md., would be played as scheduled Saturday. The game is sold out and is the most notable one on the Midshipmen’s home schedule. The Army-Navy game at the end of the season is played at a neutral site.
The Navy-AFA game and Army’s game at Boston College were in jeopardy after the Defense Department temporarily suspended sports competition at the service academies as a result of the budget impasse in Congress.
Email messages left with spokesmen for Army and Air Force were not immediately returned.
Navy said there has been no indication if the other 24 athletic events involving Naval Academy teams scheduled from Thursday-Sunday will take place.
The football teams will be allowed to play because the games are paid for with non-appropriated funds, and have been long planned. Non-appropriated funds generally come from outside sources and are not approved through Congress.
Earlier in the day, Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said he was optimistic the Pentagon would allow the games to be played.
He said the athletic department had provided information to Pentagon officials to assure them that no government funds will be spent on any aspect of the game. Gladchuk said a Navy home game brings in about $4 million from tickets, sponsorship, television and radio rights fees and other revenues such as parking and concessions. The game essentially pays for itself, he said.
Football revenue also funds Navy’s 32 other sports teams.
“It would be devastating to our budget,” Gladchuk said about having a home game canceled.
The coaches and players involved were still preparing for the games to be played.
“I wouldn’t say they’re oblivious, but they are practicing and trying to maintain that laser focus,” Gladchuk said.
Boston College coach Steve Addazio said: “In my mind, we are playing on Saturday. It’s just how I feel.”
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