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College Football

Philadelphia disappointed about getting only one Army-Navy game during next contractual cycle

There were two notable elements to the announcement about which cities would host the Army-Navy game during the next contractual cycle.

By far the biggest news was that Boston would host the 2023 contest, becoming one of the few cities outside the Mid-Atlantic corridor to ever do so.

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Just as surprising was the fact that Philadelphia only got one game over a five-year period. The City of Brotherly Love will not host Army-Navy football again until 2027.

Philadelphia bills itself as the “Home of the Game” and rightfully so since it will host Army-Navy for the 90th time this Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field.

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Philadelphia will have to wait six years for Army-Navy to return. Since 1932, Philly has never gone more than two years without welcoming the storied service academy series.

“There is no question we weren’t happy about the decision, but we certainly respect it,” said Larry Needle, executive director of PHL Sports. “We understand that this game is in incredibly high demand and that cities are clamoring to host Army-Navy.”

In addition to Boston and Philadelphia, Army-Navy will also be hosted by Baltimore (2025), Washington (2024) and New York City (2026).

Athletic officials at both service academies have always praised the performance of Philadelphia. Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk has repeatedly stated the city created the template and set the standard for how to properly host Army-Navy.

However, competing cities have borrowed that formula and built on it in hopes of landing the historic rivalry.

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Yes, we expect other cities will use a lot of the hosting elements that we have developed and learned to do so well over the years,” Needle said.

“It just says to us that we need to work that much harder going forward to make sure for the next cycle that Philadelphia is right back where it should be in terms of hosting the vast majority of games.”

Philadelphia’s association with the Army-Navy started in 1899 and has been a constant ever since. From 1932 through 1988, Philly hosted every game except four. Army-Navy was played on either the Annapolis or West Point campus three straight seasons during World War II. In 1983, Army-Navy made an ill-fated trip to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.

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That infamous 1983 contest provided a cautionary tale for why it is so difficult for cities outside the Mid-Atlantic corridor to host the game. Los Angeles, which had to pay to transport and house 8,000 Cadets and Midshipmen, wound up deeply in debt due to underestimating costs.

Since then, no city other than Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia or New York has hosted Army-Navy.

Navy football players chant "Beat Army" after a 31-7 win in the 120th Army-Navy Game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia in 2019.

Boston, which has bid for Army-Navy many times before, finally broke through that barrier. Next year’s game will be held Dec. 9 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. That facility is home to the New England Patriots and the NFL organization, led by owner Robert Kraft, played a pivotal role in landing the big game.

“I thought the New England region folks did a tremendous job with their presentation. The alignment they have from Mr. Kraft and the Patriots to the City of Boston and State of Massuchusetts was very strong,” Army athletic director Mike Buddie said. “They were in complete lockstep and really put their best foot forward. It was clear they really wanted the game and they were able to put together an impressive plan.” Next year’s Army-Navy game will be held in the greater New England region in conjunction with the 250th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party and the 225th anniversary of the USS Constitution’s maiden voyage.

There is also a historical element to the 2026 game that is being held at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. New York City was selected to host the 2021 Army-Navy to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks. Army-Navy is going back to the Big Apple five years later to mark the 25th anniversary.

Baltimore hosted Army-Navy four times from 2000 to 2016 and has become a big player in every contractual cycle. The Ravens have taken the lead on organizing the game, which is held at M&T Bank Stadium.

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Washington was awarded the Army-Navy game for the second time. It was previously played at FedEx Field in Landover in 2011.

“There was no venue that was head and shoulders above the rest that it made sense to go there for multiple years,” Buddie said. “Since we had so many interested parties that worked in terms of geography we came to the conclusion that it made sense to spread the game around.”

Army coach Jeff Monken, left, meets with Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo after the Midshipmen's 31-7 win on Dec. 14, 2019, in Philadelphia.

Gladchuk said the decision to spread the game around to five different markets during the next cycle was about “diversity and opportunity to share America’s game with five very qualified, rabidly-interested cities.” That Philadelphia got the game just one time was not a reflection on the strength of its bid.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t extend my sincerest appreciation to Philadelphia. This has been the home of Army-Navy and all the folks that orchestrate the game here are professionals of the highest order,” Gladchuk said this past Wednesday during the Army-Navy news conference and luncheon at Lincoln Financial Field.

“There is nothing wrong with Philadelphia. It is a great city that does a magnificent job of hosting the game, the facility is world-class and the people embrace the two academies. There are no negatives when it comes to Philadelphia.”

Gladchuk said Philadelphia would “always be the anchor” but acknowledged that other cities have come on strong. Ultimately, the fierce competition increases the value of the Army-Navy game.

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“I would say the innovative thinking of some other cities was impressive and attractive. Each city tried to outdo the others and it caused a level of competition that was a benefit to the academies,” Gladchuk said.

Other cities that were leading candidates to land Army-Navy included Charlotte, North Carolina, and Orlando, Florida. Buddie believes organizing authorities outside the northeast corridor will continue to submit bids, thereby increasing the likelihood the game could eventually be played in a unique location.

Meanwhile, Needle and other officials with PHL Sports look forward to attending the Army-Navy games in Boston, Baltimore, New York and Philadelphia on fact-finding missions.

“We are always open to new ideas and having a fresh set of eyes on things. This is an opportunity to do that, knowing we can always get better,” Needle said. “We want to get to the point that the academies recognize that Philadelphia is where the game should be every year.”

Army vs. Navy

Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia

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Saturday, 3 p.m.

TV: Chs. 13, 9

Radio: 1430 AM

Line: Army by 1 1/2


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