Notre Dame football will not open the season against Navy in Dublin, Ireland, on Aug. 29 because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the teams will face each other at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland, most likely on Labor Day weekend, Notre Dame announced Tuesday morning.
The decision to move the game to Navy for the first time in the 94-year history of the series was made after "extensive consultation" with the Irish government, medical authorities and the administrative staffs at both schools, according to the release. The 94th consecutive game of the longest continuous intersectional rivalry in the country will be televised nationally by ESPN or ABC.
"Our student-athletes have had great experiences competing in Ireland and are very disappointed not to be returning to Dublin in 2020," Notre Dame 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 are also grateful for everything our partners in Ireland have done to make this a smooth transition. We look forward to going back to Ireland for a game in the not too distant future."
There is still no definitive timetable for the return of college athletics, although the NCAA has allowed football players across the country to begin to return to voluntary workouts this month. Talks to cancel the season opener in Ireland began last week, but it took several days of meetings for it to become official because of the immense planning involved. Plane tickets had already been purchased and hotel rooms booked. It's the first official change to the college football game schedule because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Around 40,000 people from the U.S. were expected to attend the sold-out game.
"We are obviously disappointed not to be traveling to Ireland this August," Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said in the 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. Once we have a definitive plan in place, we will announce the specifics pertaining to the game."
According to the release, both programs will continue to work closely with the event organizers to plan for a return to Ireland in the coming years. Information on ticket refunds will be forthcoming. In 2012, the last time the storied rivals played in Ireland, more than 35,000 fans traveled from the United States to see the game at Aviva Stadium.
"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 for the first game of the Aer Lingus College Football Classic Series," said Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar. "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. I want to personally thank both Chet Gladchuk and Jack Swarbrick for their efforts to bring the game to Ireland and we hope to welcome both teams back in the near future."
The game will mark the first time Notre Dame visits Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Each prior meeting hosted by Navy has been played at a neutral site. Overall, Notre Dame owns a 79-13-1 record (which includes two regular-season wins later vacated under a discretionary NCAA penalty) against the Midshipmen.