Shutdown Forces Service Academy Sports Into Limbo

By: CBS News
By: CBS News

WASHINGTON (CBS News) -- Army, Navy and Air Force might be forced to skip their football games next weekend because of the partial government shutdown.

The Defense Department temporarily suspended sports competition at the service academies Tuesday as a result of the budget impasse in Congress.

A Pentagon spokesman, Army Col. Steve Warren, said the decision was being reviewed by lawyers considering a series of legal questions, including whether money that comes from sources other than Congress could be used to pay for sports during the government shutdown.

Meantime, the suspension put a pair of college football games in jeopardy: Army at Boston College, and Air Force at Navy.

During a six-day government shutdown in November 1995, Army, Navy and Air Force played football games - all at home.

Defense Department spokesman Bill Urban told ESPN lawyers are trying to determine whether non-appropriated funds might be used by the Air Force team to travel to Navy and the Army team to travel to Boston College for Saturday's scheduled games.

"There are differences in how each academy funds their athletics programs," Urban told Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com. "One academy can pay for its entire program through non-appropriated funds. Others do not have that setup."

The U.S. Naval Academy said in a statement that a decision will be made by noon Thursday about whether the Midshipmen will play the Air Force. Navy's football team did practice Tuesday.

Air Force associate athletic director Troy Garnhart said travel for his sports teams was being halted - including for Saturday's football game at Annapolis, Md. A scheduled news conference with Air Force football coach Troy Calhoun and players was canceled Tuesday "due to the government shutdown," according to a statement.

The football rivalry between Navy and Air Force dates to 1960, and they have played each other every year since 1972. Saturday's game, which is sold out, is part of the series that determines the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy, awarded annually to the service academy with the best record in games involving Army, Navy and Air Force.

The NBA's San Antonio Spurs are holding their training camp at the Air Force Academy but the club was not affected by the shutdown, practicing Tuesday as planned.

As for Army against Boston College, B.C. athletic director Brad Bates said: "We have been in close communication with Army athletics officials regarding the potential impact of the government shutdown on this Saturday's football game. Obviously our intention is to exhaust all possibilities to play the game and we will communicate the information promptly as soon as we have resolution."

The U.S. Military Academy issued a statement saying, "Sporting competitions can still be at risk but are being assessed by our chain of command and Department of the Army."

The Army and Navy each called off soccer games scheduled for Tuesday night. It was not immediately known whether they would be made up.


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