Notre Dame football was scheduled to open its 2020 season with a rivalry matchup against Navy in Dublin, Ireland. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, that game has been moved stateside, the Irish announced Tuesday.
The matchup between the Irish and Midshipmen, which is to be the 94th all-time meeting between the teams, was scheduled for Aug. 29 at Aviva Stadium, but will instead take place at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland, over Labor Day weekend, either Sept. 5 or Sept. 6. Kickoff time and broadcast information will be released at a later date.
“Our student-athletes have had great experiences competing in Ireland and are very disappointed not to be returning to Dublin in 2020,” Irish athletic director Jack Swarbrick 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 look forward to going back to Ireland for a game in the not too distant future.”
Everyone involved – Notre Dame, Navy and officials in Ireland – expressed a commitment to getting the teams back to Ireland for a meeting in the coming seasons. The teams had previously played in Dublin in 2012, a game the Irish won 50-10, in front of more than 48,000 fans, about 35,000 of whom traveled from the United States.
The game at Aviva Stadium – a venue that houses more than 51,000 spectators and is home to the Irish national rugby team and the Republic of Ireland national soccer team – was already sold out and about 40,000 fans from the United States were scheduled to make the trip.
“We are obviously disappointed not to be traveling to Ireland this August,” Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk Jr. said in a statement. “But, as expected, our priority must be ensuring the health and safety of all involved. 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.”
The now rescheduled meeting was set to be the first in an annual series to be played in Ireland, the Aer Lingus College Football Classic Series. The 2021 meeting is already set and will feature Illinois playing Nebraska, also at Aviva Stadium.
The 2020 game in the series was moved in part because Ireland has banned gatherings of more than 5,000 people through the end of August in an effort to slow the spread of the pandemic.
“College football is one of the greatest spectacles in world sport and we had been thoroughly looking forward to welcoming Navy and Notre Dame here this summer,” Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar said in a statement. “Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond our control, that is now not possible, but we hope to see both universities return to Aviva Stadium in the coming years.”
Instead of playing overseas, this year's Notre Dame-Navy matchup will mark the first time in the series' history that the Irish will face their opponent on the Midshipmen's home turf.
Previous iterations of the rivalry hosted by Navy have been played at a variety of neutral sites. Gladchuk said it's unlikely the game will ever be played there again and fans will probably be limited.
“It's history in the making,” he said in an interview with WMAR-2 News in Baltimore. “It's a first and it will probably be a last. It will never happen again. COVID-19 has thrown a curve ball in so many ways.
“We are anticipating a limited crowd with social distancing and restrictions.”
The change to Notre Dame's schedule means the Irish no longer have a bye in Week 1, but they also have an extra week to get ready for the season, which could be important because the Irish football players are as of now scheduled to return to campus in July at the earliest.