The Defense Department will allow the Navy, Air Force, and Army collegiate football teams to play this Saturday despite the decision Tuesday to cancel service academy athletic events because of the federal shutdown.
Navy and Air Force are scheduled to kickoff at 11:30 a.m. before a sellout crowd and a national television audience on Saturday in Annapolis, Md. Army is slated to play Boston College at 1 p.m. in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.
"The Naval Academy is happy to confirm that Saturday's football game against Air Force will be played as scheduled," said Cmdr. John Schofield, the Naval Academy spokesman.
However, the decision to let the football teams play doesn't mean games will resume for the other service academy sports teams. In a sign of the times, the Naval Academy canceled their soccer game against Howard University Tuesday night.
"Any decision about other future service academy sporting events has yet to be determined," Schofield said.
Defense Department officials announced their decision to cancel games during the federal government shutdown Tuesday after Congress failed to pass a budget or continuing resolution for the 2014 fiscal year. About 400,000 civilians and contractors who work for the Defense Department have been temporarily furloughed because of the shutdown.
An academy official said the decision to allow this Saturday's football games does not extend to future games should the government remain shutdown. All three football teams have games scheduled for the following week, including Air Force's game against San Diego State on Thursday night on CBS Sports.
The Defense Department is allowing the football games to be played because they don't require government funding, according to an Associated Press report. ESPN reported that the decision for the football games was made by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel who is presently traveling through Asia.
Each one of the academy football teams continued to practice throughout the week despite the cancelation announcements. Coaches said they had to keep preparing as if they would play the games.
Naval Academy Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk said earlier Wednesday that Navy would make about $4 million from Saturday's game against Air Force when considering ticket sales, television revenue, parking, concessions, and sponsorships.
Navy and Air Force football coaches are paid by athletic associations and not funded by the government. These associations also pay for game day costs, said Scott Strasemeier, the Naval Academy's senior associate athletic director for sports information.
United Airlines even offered to fly the Air Force Academy football team to Annapolis to allow the game to be played against Navy.
Critics of the Defense Department's decision suggested that military leaders or politicians were using the football game as political leverage in the shutdown debate after it was proven the game could be played without the use of government funds.