WASHINGTON >> A senior defense official says U.S. military academy football teams will be on the field this weekend, despite the ongoing government shutdown.
The official said today the decision affects this weekend’s games only, and future games will be evaluated as events unfold in the coming days.
The teams will be allowed to play because the games are paid for with non-appropriated funds, and have been long planned. Army is scheduled to travel to Boston College this weekend, and Air Force will play at Navy in Annapolis, Md.
The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.
Non-appropriated funds generally come from outside sources and are not approved through Congress.
The Defense Department temporarily suspended sports competition at the service academies as a result of the partial government shutdown.
Navy’s soccer game against Howard was called off. It was not immediately known whether it would be made up.
The football rivalry between Navy and Air Force dates to 1960, and they have played each other every year since 1972. Saturday’s game is sold out.
Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said that the athletic department has 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 most of Navy’s 32 other sports teams.
As for Army against Boston College, B.C. athletic director Brad Bates said: "We have been in close communication with Army athletics officials regarding the potential impact of the government shutdown on this Saturday’s football game. Obviously our intention is to exhaust all possibilities to play the game and we will communicate the information promptly as soon as we have resolution."
And on a lighter note, United Airlines in a tweet offered to provide free transportation to the Air Force team from Colorado Springs to Maryland.
"We hate cancellations, so we’re offering to fly @AF–Academy to this year’s Air Force-Navy game. Retweet if you agree," the company’s official Twitter account posted.