Army-Navy football game will be held at Michie Stadium in West Point instead of Philadelphia

Army-Navy football 1890

Army-Navy football 1890

First Navy football team to play Army, November 29, 1890. Standing left to right: Charlie Macklin, Martin Trench, Noble Irwin, Rufus Lane, Henry Ward, Harry Smith. Second Row: Powers Symington, Charley Emrich, Moulton Johnson, Renwick Hartung. Seated: Henry Pearson, George Laws, Adelbert Althouse, John Beuret. (Special Collections & Archives D/HANDOUT)1 / 73

History will be made once again in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

It was announced Friday that the 121st Army-Navy football game will not be played in Philadelphia as planned.ADVERTISING

Army and Navy jointly announced that this year’s service academy showdown would be played Dec. 12 at Michie Stadium in West Point, New York.

It marks the second time in history the game will be played at Michie Stadium. In 1943, amid World War II, the Army-Navy game was played at that facility, which is on the campus of the United States Military Academy.

According to the news release issued Friday, the game is being moved from Philadelphia due to attendance limits placed on outdoor events in Pennsylvania. Those restrictions limit the total number of people allowed inside Lincoln Financial Field to fewer than 10,000, a figure that would not accommodate both the Brigade of Midshipmen and Corps of Cadets. No civilian fans will be permitted to attend.

During World War II, two Army-Navy games were held on the academy campuses. The Naval Academy hosted in 1942, which is why the 1943 contest was held at West Point. The two schools also rotated, hosting the first four games from 1890-93.

“We will not be able to visit the home of Army-Navy this December,” Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said in a statement. “History will repeat itself as we stage this cherished tradition on academy grounds as was the case dating back to World War II.”

Administrators with both service academies tried to work with government officials from Pennsylvania and Philadelphia to “create a safe and acceptable environment” for the Brigade of Midshipmen and Corps of Cadets to attend the game at Lincoln Financial Field.

“However, medical conditions and protocols dictate the environment in which we live,” Gladchuk said.

Gladchuk and Army athletic director Mike Buddie considered numerous alternatives to maintain a neutral site. However, after all avenues were exhausted, it became clear the contest needed to be played at Michie Stadium, which is federal government property and therefore not subject to state or local restrictions.[More from sports] Bill Wagner: Travis Pastrana brought fun and excitement to Annapolis with Ego Alley jump | COMMENTARY »

Although the game is traditionally played at a neutral site, the two service academies rotate serving as “host.” Army is considered the host for 2020.

“We had to move forward with the best course of action, and that is what led to this decision,” Gladchuk said. “This important game can be managed and successfully executed up at West Point. I am confident the administration at Army West Point will do a good job.”

While the game will be held on Army’s home field, the atmosphere in the stands will be neutral as only the Corps of Cadets and Brigade of Midshipmen will be in attendance. If circumstances change and allow for civilian fans, tickets will be distributed equally between the two academies, Gladchuk said.

Reminded of the home-and-home situation during World War II, Gladchuk expressed hope the pandemic would not cause a repeat for 2020 and 2021.

“Let’s pray this is a one and done, and there is no return game,” he said with a chuckle.

Gladchuk said busing the entire Brigade of Midshipmen, which numbers in excess of 4,000, all the way to West Point and back will put some “stress” on the Naval Academy.

“It is what it is. We’re just going to move on and be ready to play overlooking the Hudson River,” he said. “This is another situation in the year 2020 that we have to be able to face and execute. We will deliver a successful end result, and that will be two academy teams duking it out on national television.”

Gladchuk informed Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo of the decision during a meeting Thursday. He said the 13th-year coach was “realistic” and “accepted” having to play on Army’s campus.

“We’re in a pandemic. There are a lot of things happening that we’re not comfortable with,” Gladchuk said.

Contacted Friday, Niumatalolo was reluctant to spend much time discussing the issue since Navy hosts Houston in a crucial American Athletic Conference matchup Saturday afternoon. After asserting that “all of our focus is on Houston,” Niumatalolo said Navy would look forward to playing its archrival at Michie Stadium.

“We’ve always said we would play Army wherever, so that is what we’ll do,” Niumatalolo said. “I’ve been here 23 years, and it will be my first time going to West Point. It’s going to be strange, but we’ll show up ready to play.”

Superintendent Vice Adm. Sean Buck said in the news release the Naval Academy is “thrilled” to continue the tradition by playing at West Point but will miss the “warm welcome the City of Philadelphia provides to Army and Navy fans.”

Lieutenant General Darryl A. Williams, the 60th Superintendent of the United States Military Academy, said playing the game in West Point “will be the safest way for the cadets and midshipmen to cheer their teams to victory.”

CBS Sports will televise the game at 3 p.m. Navy leads the all-time series 61-52-7 and has won 15 of the last 18 contests.

2002 Giants Stadium East Rutherford, N.J.

2002 Giants Stadium East Rutherford, N.J.

Navy quarterback Craig Candeto (11) breaks away from Army linebacker Joe Martinez (43) as he runs for a 42-yard touchdown during the second quarter Saturday, Dec. 7, 2002, at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. (Bill Kostroun / Associated Press)1 / 41Bill WagnerCONTACT  

Bill Wagner has worked for Capital Gazette Newspapers for 30 years. He served as beat writer for Navy athletics and general assignment sports reporter. He is also the sailing editor.