WASHINGTON – Army, Navy and Air Force might be forced to skip their football games this weekend because of the partial government shutdown.
The Defense Department temporarily suspended sports competition at the service academies Tuesday as a result of the budget impasse in Congress.
A Pentagon spokesman, Army Col. Steve Warren, said the decision was being reviewed by lawyers considering a series of legal questions, including whether money that comes from sources other than Congress could be used to pay for sports during the government shutdown.
Meantime, the suspension put a pair of games in jeopardy: Army at Boston College, and Air Force at Navy.
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During a six-day government shutdown in November 1995, Army, Navy and Air Force played football games — all at home.
The U.S. Naval Academy said in a statement a decision will be made Thursday morning about whether the Midshipmen will play the Air Force. Navy’s team did practice Tuesday.
Air Force associate athletic director Troy Garnhart said travel for his sports teams was being halted — including for Saturday’s football game in Annapolis, Md., that is scheduled to be televised on CBS.
A scheduled news conference with Air Force coach Troy Calhoun and players was canceled Tuesday “due to the government shutdown,” according to a statement.
The football rivalry between Navy and Air Force dates to 1960, and they have played each other every year since 1972.
Saturday’s game, which is sold out, is part of the series that determines the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy, awarded annually to the service academy with the best record in games involving Army, Navy and Air Force.
Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said, “It’s going to be a setback of the highest order if this game doesn’t happen.”
Gladchuk estimated that not having the game could cost the Naval Academy in the millions of dollars and would have “tremendous ripple effects in regard to the community and the local economy.”
The NBA’s San Antonio Spurs are holding their training camp at the Air Force Academy and the team practiced Tuesday, as planned.
As for Army against Boston College, BC 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.”
The U.S. Military Academy issued a statement saying, “Sporting competitions can still be at risk but are being assessed by our chain of command and Department of the Army.”
• Oregon running back De’Anthony Thomas is unlikely to play at Colorado on Saturday after emerging from practice wearing a boot on his injured right ankle.
Running-backs coach Gary Campbell told reporters the junior’s return is “not going to happen” when the No. 2 Ducks visit Colorado.
Thomas was injured on the opening kickoff of Oregon’s 55-16 victory over California on Saturday night, slipping on turf that was slick from a driving rain. He has 485 all-purpose yards.