The government shutdown that began Tuesday morning when Congress failed to authorize new funding to continue government operations could lead to the cancellation of a college football game between Navy and Air Force scheduled for Saturday, a Department of Defense spokesperson told ThinkProgress.
“You’d have to talk to the academies specifically, but to talk specific effects on them, I can confirm that travel funded by the Department of Defense has to be done for an accepted activity, in which it would be a military operation designated by the Secretary of Defense or for the safety of life or property,” Pentagon spokesman Cdr. Bill Urban told ThinkProgress. “This football game would not necessarily fit into the accepted category, so unless they have some other way to pay for it, I would expect it would not be able to continue.”
Members of the Air Force and Naval academies are considered members of the military.
The Annapolis Capital reported that there was a “possibility” the shutdown could affect Saturday’s sold-out game in Annapolis. That doesn’t mean a decision is final, even if Congress doesn’t approve funding to re-open the government before Saturday. Both teams could find non-government sources of funding to make the trip, from alumni funds or through other means. Both academies receive government funding to support athletics but raise money from alumni and other private sources as well.
“We’re going to do what the Department of Defense tells us,” Air Force associate athletic director Troy Garnhart said. “If they say we can’t travel, then we can’t travel. Anything is possible. We really don’t know.”
Naval Academy spokesman Scott Strasemeier told USA Today that “nothing has changed at this point.” The shutdown has, however, suspended all athletic activities at service academies. A final decision on the game will come by noon Thursday. Army is scheduled to play at Boston College, and its game would likely be affected too.
Air Force released a statement this afternoon saying that “travel for all intercollegiate athletics is cancelled” during the government shutdown. The Falcons football team will not travel to Navy for the game Saturday, though an end to the shutdown could change that later this week.