Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

Contingency Plans on Deck for Navy-Notre Dame

April 2, 2020

Just a week after representatives from both Navy and Notre Dame indicated no plans had been discussed to move the two teams’ college football season opener from Dublin, Ireland, back to the United States, both Irish coach Brian Kelly and Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo discussed the uncertainty surrounding the scheduled 2020 season on ESPNU Radio – and Kelly specifically updated the latest on that game amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The game, technically, is a home game for the Midshipmen, who were routed by the Fighting Irish in Notre Dame Stadium last November.

“Oh, absolutely,” Kelly said Thursday of contingency plans when asked by host and former coach Rick Neuheisel. “We’re looking at all of those possibilities for alternate sites. We would still like to play it there, if it’s at all possible. I think it’s prudent that we’ve begun the process of looking at alternative sites as well, not knowing truly what the situation will be.”

Niumatalolo, though not specifically asked about the game against the Irish, offered his viewpoint on the potential timeline for starting a season.

“That’s a great question,” Niumatalolo said on the minimum amount of time needed to launch the season. “I think if you ask coaches, we’d all want longer. I saw something, I think it was Brian Kelly, talked about a month and a month. A month to start doing physical conditioning with your strength coach and another month to start practicing. I’ve heard somebody say, ‘Hey, we probably could do it in a month. The product may not be the greatest, so to speak.’

“Maybe your guys are in good enough shape that they won’t get hurt. From a fan’s perspective, it will look like football and things will be great. And from a coach’s perspective, maybe you’ll look and see your routes aren’t as crisp. Your pad-level isn’t as great, or whatever the case may be. I think you can still play.”

Last week, a Navy spokesman said, “As of (March 25) there are no other contingency plans being examined for the Navy-Notre Dame game in Ireland. We are monitoring the situation both in the United States and in Ireland, but we have not set any formal deadline to make a decision.”

Multiple sources have indicated the odds of the game taking place overseas have continued to shrink in the past week, with Notre Dame formally canceling its late-May commencement ceremony and a cloud hanging over the ability to return to campus for summer classes.

Additionally, Kelly also on Wednesday – as he evaluated his current team – acknowledged that a later start to the season might be necessary.

“Offensively, effective and efficient,” Kelly said. “Ian Book is gonna lead a very effective and efficient offense. The defensive pieces are there. We return some very, very good defensive linemen, who can still rush the passer and stop the run.

“There’s depth at the linebacking corps. We’re gonna be a really good football team. I’m hopeful and optimistic, I think two good things to have during this time, that we’re going to play football in the fall. Maybe the late fall, but I like our football team and like what I saw early on.”

Kelly noted the importance of football --- not in the realm of athletic competition but rather to the coffers of college institutions across the country. Like many colleges and universities across the country, Notre Dame has had to refund millions of dollars in campus dormitory fees and other monies after it was forced to move its entire semester to online classes and clear campus.

“I think, as you know, it is so important that all of college football, gets off in some fashion to a start this year,” Kelly said. “The financial implications are huge for the universities far beyond football itself.

“But for all the other sports as well. I think these conversations are far-reaching and they’re down the line quite a bit in terms of how we can get this done. Certainly, one of those contingencies is to move the (Navy) game back into the states.”

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