In November, 2005, Navy and Notre Dame announced a 10-year contract that guaranteed the historic series would continue through 2016.
In July, 2011, the two schools jointly announced that contract had been extended another 10 years to 2026.
Naval Academy athletic director Chet Gladchuk told The Capital on Thursday the intent from the outset was to play two non-domestic games during that 20-year period.
Navy and Notre Dame took the series outside the United States in 2012, playing at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland. Of course, the Midshipmen were considered the “home team” for that contest as the Fighting Irish play all their home games on their campus in South Bend.
Navy and Notre Dame will meet for the 92nd consecutive year on Saturday in San Diego. Beyond that, Navy only has three remaining home games during the current contractual cycle.
Gladchuk knew he had promised Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick another non-domestic matchup before 2026.
“We were running out of time to go overseas again and the closer we looked at things it became clear that 2020 was the only year we could pull it off,” Gladchuk said on Thursday shortly after landing in San Diego. “After that, there were issues on both sides that that precluded us from doing it.”
On Thursday, Gladchuk and Swarbrick joined Prime Minister of Ireland Leo Varadkar to announce that the 2020 Navy-Notre Dame game will be held at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland on Saturday, Aug. 29.
This will be the third time the two schools have played in Dublin following the aforementioned 2012 meeting and previously 1996.
“We are thrilled and excited to return to Aviva Stadium in Dublin for the 94th playing of the Navy-Notre Dame game,” Gladchuk said. “In 2012, it was one of the greatest airlifts in all of sports with more than 35,000 people coming from the United States to witness the beauty of Ireland and the extravaganza that is Navy-Notre Dame and we expect just as many people to return in 2020.
“The support and enthusiasm for the game in Ireland is magnificent with the complete support from the prime minister and the Irish government agencies. We are looking forward to a great matchup in a country that knows no bounds for hospitality,” Gladhcuk added.
Gladchuk said he and Swarbrick considered other foreign locales, including London and Paris. They decided going back to Dublin made the most sense.
“Really, the most logical destination is clearly Dublin because of the Fighting Irish and the reputation Navy has in that country,” Gladchuk said. “It’s fresh in everyone’s mind about what a great experience it was in 2012. Everyone remembers so vividly how impactful that game was to the entire country of Ireland.”
Playing in Ireland is particular special for Notre Dame on a number of levels, not the least of which is the school nickname of Fighting Irish.
“The University of Notre Dame, our football program, our alumni and fans had such a wonderful experience in 2012,” said Swarbrick. “The people of Ireland were incredibly welcoming and made our time on the Emerald Isle unforgettable.
“It wasn’t long after our return from that trip that Navy initiated conversations with the hopes of bringing this matchup back to Dublin,” Swarbrick continued. “Chet and his staff at Navy deserve a ton of credit for making this a reality. I’m so excited, not only for our student-athletes and those that will travel from the states, but for the people of Ireland and all of those that will make this another experience to cherish.”
The announcement by Prime Minister Varadkar in Dublin is part of a five-game American Football Series that will bring a $250 million economic value to the country. Aer Lingus was unveiled as the title sponsor for the series and all five games will be played in Aviva Stadium, starting with the Navy-Notre Dame game. The classic will be called The Aer Lingus College Football Classic.
“College football is one of the greatest spectacles in world sport and to bring it back to Ireland for a five-year series is wonderful news for Irish tourism and for sports fans,” said Varadkar.
“Over 35,000 fans traveled to Ireland when Notre Dame and Navy last met in Dublin in 2012 and we will warmly welcome them and many others back for the Aer Lingus College Football Classics,” the prime minister noted.
Varadkar said such major events showcase Ireland as a location for international events and tournaments and put the country’s hospitality and tourism sector front and center.
“I look forward to the first game of the series with the return of Notre Dame vs Navy in August 2020. I have no doubt it will be a hugely popular occasion,” he said.
Gladchuk said several obstacles had to be cleared before Thursday’s announcement became a reality. Navy and Notre Dame had lined up MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. for 2020 in case the Ireland deal fell through.
“We’ve been laboring over the detail for six months because it wasn’t a shoo-in. There were some issues we had to resolve,” Gladchuk said. “If the non-domestic site did not materialize we were programmed to go to The Meadowlands.”
Gladchuk revealed to The Capital that Navy-Notre Dame will be held at MetLife Stadium in 2024.
“We are very thankful the folks with the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority were willing to postpone hosting Navy-Notre Dame until 2024,” he said.
Neil Naughton, Chairman of the Game Steering Committee, welcomed Thursday's announcement.
“These games will provide a further, very welcome boost for tourism in Ireland and showcase top level college football to a wider fan base,” Naughton said.
“Tourism Ireland in the United States is working closely with Anthony Travel and other travel partners and we will be using these great sporting events to showcase the fantastic Aviva Stadium and the world class attractions that the island of Ireland offers as a destination.”
Gladchuk said Navy and Notre Dame considered playing the 2020 contest at Croke Park, a stadium in Dublin that holds 82,300.
“Croke Park is a larger facility and we could sell more tickets, but the environment at Aviva Stadium is magnificent,” Gladchuk said. “We’ll sell out Aviva Stadium in no time at all. We sacrificed a few dollars to ensure a better atmosphere. Plus, we’ve got the logistics of that venue down pat so it will be a smooth execution.”
The other key partners who will drive the game in both Ireland and America are Failte Ireland, Tourism Ireland and Dublin City Council.
The Aer Lingus College Football Series will have a very strong Irish-American influence. Not only will there be the usual college football fanfare with lots of fun events celebrating the red, white and blue including marching bands, cheerleaders and tailgating parties, but there will also be a great celebration of the close Irish-American links that are so highly valued.
The teams will compete each year for the Keough-Naughton College Football Trophy, acknowledging the contribution to Irish-American society of Don Keough and Martin Naughton.