Just hours after it became apparent that Navy wouldn’t play Notre Dame in the 2020 college football season, the Midshipmen announced a replacement.
The BYU Cougars will be coming to Annapolis on Sept. 7 for a primetime game that will air on ESPN. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. and it will be just the third time ever that Navy and BYU have met on the gridiron.
In a statement, the Naval Academy athletic department said that the chance for Notre Dame to play Navy this year was “eliminated” when the Irish joined the ACC for the 2020 season. Because of concerns from the coronavirus pandemic, ACC teams are allowing their members to play just one non-conference game this season and it had to be in a state with an ACC school in it. So, the longest continuous intersectional rivalry in college football ended at 93 games.
Still, Navy was able to replace Notre Dame with a quality opponent in uncertain and weird times for college football.
“Looking ahead, we have created an exciting and anticipated matchup in Annapolis with one of college football’s storied programs in BYU,” Navy AD Chet Gladchuk said in a statement. “This game will bring great national exposure for the Naval Academy, Annapolis, our state and Navy football. Although attendance in our stadium will be regulated and greatly reduced with fan welfare and social distancing guidelines in effect, a national television audience will enjoy watching two of college football’s most storied programs kick off the season in a primetime environment.”
BYU head coach Kalani Sitake on the Cougs' new season opener: "We are extremely excited for this opportunity...Navy plays great football and we have the utmost appreciation and respect for all of the sacrifices the members of the military academies make on all of our behalf."— Greg Wrubell (@gregwrubell) August 6, 2020
BYU went 7-6 last season and posted wins over USC, Tennessee and Boise State. The Cougars last met the Midshipmen in Annapolis in 1989.
As part of the agreement for this game, Navy will come to Provo, Utah for a return game on a yet-to-be-determined date.
On a Zoom call with reporters Thursday afternoon, Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo said he suggested BYU as a replacement game because he “felt like they fit what we were looking for.”
Niumatalolo, who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and who was considered as a candidate for the BYU head coaching opening in 2015, said he found out yesterday that the game was being finalized.
“There were other options out there, but we felt like this was the best option for us,” Niumatalolo said. “We’re excited to be able to play a really good football program. They’ve got a national brand. Really good team. Coach Sitake is a good coach and he’s got a great staff.
“They pick it up and go and play anybody. Believe me, they’re not afraid to come and play the Midshipmen... They’ve been in some tough places, so it’s going to be a tough game for us.”
Navy also announced that it will not replace Lafayette on its 2020 schedule and will go into the season with eight AAC games and three non-conference match-ups in BYU, Air Force and Army.
Additionally, Gladchuk and Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick have agreed to extend the contract between Navy and Notre Dame to 2032. The two school began playing each other in football in 1927.