Paul Myerberg, USA TODAY
Published 8:57 a.m. ET June 2, 2020 | Updated 8:58 a.m. ET June 2, 2020
The season opener between Notre Dame and Navy will be moved from Dublin to Navy’s home stadium in Annapolis, Maryland, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the two schools announced on Tuesday.
“We are obviously disappointed not to be traveling to Ireland this August,” said Navy athletics director Chet Gladchuk. “But, as expected, our priority must be ensuring the health and safety of all involved.”
The opener was scheduled for Aug. 29 as the first game in the Aer Lingus College Football Classic Series, followed in 2021 by a matchup between Big Ten divisional rivals Nebraska and Illinois. Instead, the 94th consecutive meeting pitting the two programs — Notre Dame and Navy have the longest uninterrupted non-conference series in the Bowl Subdivision — is scheduled for Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, which would mark the first time the Midshipmen have played host to the Fighting Irish in the rivalry’s history.
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While teams across the FBS have restarted voluntary activities in the wake of the NCAA’s decision to allow student-athletes back on campus beginning in June, the fate of the upcoming season remains unsettled as schools, conferences and broadcasters wrestle with the potential for continued disruptions caused by COVID-19.
Several conference commissioners and university administrators have discussed the need to have some sort of social distancing in place should games return to college campuses this fall, such as dramatically limiting the amount of fans allowed to attend an individual game.
In a normal year, given the magnitude of the annual series and the uniqueness of playing host to the game, Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium would certainly draw a crowd rivaling, if not exceeding, its record attendance, which was 38,792 for a game against rival Air Force in 2017. At the very least, attendance at all games this season is expected to be held to far below capacity.
“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,” Gladchuk said.
For now, the game will likely be played on either the Saturday or Sunday of Labor Day weekend and be televised nationally by either ESPN or ABC, the schools said in a statement.
“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.”
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Notre Dame owns a commanding 79-13-1 lead in the series, counting two wins later vacated due to two NCAA penalties. The Irish held the FBS record for longest winning streak against a single opponent with 43 wins in a row against Navy beginning in 1964. The Midshipmen snapped that streak in 2007 and have won four of the past 13 in the series.
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