The Navy football team is currently scheduled to kick off its season at home against BYU Sept. 7, but Midshipmen athletic director Chet Gladchuk understands the program is operating on a day-to-day basis even with the health and safety protocols the Naval Academy has put in place for the program.
Gladchuk says the football program has followed advice from those with medical backgrounds to build an environment that minimizes the risk for coronavirus infections at Navy through testing and screening protocols and the like. Still, Gladchuk understands how fragile it all is.
“We’ve got a game Monday night Labor Day weekend — national TV, wonderful setting — but on Sept. 5 or 6 before BYU takes off to come to Annapolis, it could change,” Gladchuk said on Glenn Clark Radio Aug. 14.
The football program is coming off an 11-2 season. It beat Army for the first time since 2015 and capped off its season by beating Kansas State in the Liberty Bowl. The Midshipmen had gone 3-10 a year prior, but they were able to bounce back in 2019 thanks to a much-improved defense and a breakout season for quarterback Malcolm Perry.
But with Perry in the NFL now with the Miami Dolphins, Navy will be looking to build off its 2019 season with a new signal-caller under center, and the leader in the clubhouse appears to be Dalen Morris. The Midshipmen are currently scheduled to kick off their American Athletic Conference schedule at Tulane Sept. 19. They’ll face Army in Philadelphia Dec. 12.
Gladchuk said at this point, the AAC believes its schools are in a place in which they can manage the threat of the virus even though there’s no guarantee what the next day will bring.
“That’s not to say it eliminates risk, because we all know that every day you take on some degree of risk. You try to minimize it, but you take on some degree of risk,” Gladchuk said. “Our people feel right now that although the Big Ten’s made a statement, the Pac-12’s made a statement, the MAC’s made a statement, it’s all respected and that’s all understood, we feel as though that we’re still in an environment that can be reasonably managed.”
That said, the possibility of playing football in the spring has been raised by conferences that have punted on the fall season, though the details of how it would work are fuzzy. There are myriad concerns related to playing in the spring, such as how many games players would be asked to play with a full fall schedule on the back end, how many players would choose against playing with the NFL Draft looming and more.
If the virus forces the postponement of Navy’s football season, would Gladchuk be open to playing in the spring?
“We never lose sight of the fact that our job is over a four-year period to educate and to train in a military context,” Gladchuk said. “I will say this: If we were to go to the spring season, I would say yes, that we would engage … and we’d be ready to go.”
Something else that has been raised recently is the possibility to at least begin the college basketball season in non-conference tournaments in bubble settings. That’s a bridge too far at Navy, according to Gladchuk.
“We’re a commissioning entity. We’re about training sailors, training Marines. Intercollegiate athletics is a very integral part of leadership. Our mission is moral, mental, physical,” he said. “ … To make it exclusive and to create a bubble that would shelter our basketball players and take them out of the mainstream of the educational process at large is not going to happen at Navy.”
For more from Gladchuk, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Navy Athletics