No Service Academy Games During Government Shutdown Is College Football's Loss

Michael Felder@InTheBleachersNational CFB Lead WriterOctober 2, 2013

Sep 28, 2013; Bowling Green, KY, USA; Navy Midshipmen quarterback John Hendrick (10) throws a pass against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers during the second half at Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium. Western Kentucky won 19-7. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

The federal government shutdown is a very real, very serious situation that has impacted the lives of folks, directly and indirectly, all over the nation. Its impact is set to reach the collegiate football world as the service academies have been forced to suspend activities.

On a myriad of levels, this is something that would make the college football landscape take a legitimate loss. The losers would include the student-athletes, the institutions, the communities surrounding the events and, of course, the opponents set to square off with service academies.

While many call the shutdown political posturing, there is also some serious political football being played by the department of defense, as Greg Couch of Fox Sports and Mike James of The Birddog both point out.

The game squarely in the cross-hairs is Air Force at Navy. A big-time affair, set to air on CBS at 11:30 a.m. ET, for 30 minutes of nothing but service academy football. A game that would showcase both programs and give the student-athletes a chance to compete for the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy. The athletes just want to play ball, the coaches just want to coach, and fans just want to see the teams play.

In the grand scheme of things, there is so much more to lose if the game is not played, based merely on posturing and a public relations play from the Department of Defense. The folks in Annapolis are expecting a record crowd for the contest, and as Couch points out in his story that includes a quote from Navy AD Chet Gladchuk, the supporting cast around the game will also be hurt:

Naval Academy athletic director Chet Gladchuk told the Annapolis Capital that if the game — built up as an event honoring the 1963 Cotton Bowl team — isn’t played, it will cost the Academy $4 million. 

“That this thing has tentacles that reach to Annapolis is truly disappointing,” Gladchuk told the paper. “It would be absolutely devastating if this game cannot be played. It would be a tremendous setback for an awful lot of people, and we can’t even calculate the total cost.’’

A football game has its own economy. And it’s a microcosm, really, of what can happen to the nation’s economy during the shutdown.

It is a big deal, especially due to the fact that not playing the game is a push rooted not in money but in a PR play. The Department of Defense does not want to "look bad" even as the funds for the game do not come from the government itself on Navy's side. Where Air Force is concerned, The Gazette points out that conference money and even private funding could be substituted if that would give the Falcons the green light. 

Yet here we sit a few days away from the big game, and there's no word as to whether or not the teams will be allowed to play. Scott Strasemeier at Navy points out that the schools and the game itself will be held hostage until Thursday, midday.

And, on the back end of things, looking more long-term, other collegiate teams could end up impacted should the service academies be grounded this week and beyond. If Army does not play Boston College, the Eagles miss on a game. The Duke Blue Devils are already eyeballing the game scheduled against Navy for October 12 with caution.

As a Mountain West member, a prolonged suspension of activities not only would stop the Falcons from competing against Navy, one of its biggest rivals, but it would impact conference play as well. On the field, that gets into trying to reschedule games, if at all possible, plus figuring out contingency plans for games such as next Thursday's San Diego State at Air Force contest.

From an inventory standpoint, it also means not delivering on the television contract that supports the league itself.

There will be a lot of folks made to lose out if these teams are parked. However, as Mike James points out at The Birddog, Navy has played through shutdowns before, so that is a positive sign from a historical standpoint. Each shutdown is unique, and given the hyper-politicized nature of the current situation, it will be interesting to see how the Department of Defense plays its cards.

With all intercollegiate athletics suspended, the issue goes beyond just the highly visible football. If they choose to force the service academies to the sidelines, plenty of people will be forced into an unfavorable spot, and as Couch points out, that's a microcosm of what the shutdown can do nationally.