Head Coach Ken Niumatalolo ‘Pretty Confident’ Notre Dame, Navy Will Play Football Against One Another This Season
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Head Coach Ken Niumatalolo Confident Navy Will Play Notre Dame In 2020

Both Notre Dame and Navy are scheduled to begin fall camp at the end of next week, slightly less than a month before the two teams are currently slated to open against one other on Sept. 5 or 6.

Even as the season approaches, there is still speculation that the game may be postponed in 2020 or even canceled. Some of this is up to the ACC, which is still considering a revised schedule that could include the Fighting Irish as a one-year conference member.

What limitation could this put on Notre Dame director of athletics Jack Swarbrick and his ability to keep scheduled games with programs outside of the ACC?

Initially, it seemed that Notre Dame would have an answer from ACC president John Swofford on Wednesday, but it appears the conference could wait until as late as Aug. 5 before it makes an actual decision.

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Of course, the COVID-19 virus and how it spread throughout college campuses and NCAA football programs will also have a say in if Notre Dame plays Navy in 2020 or if a season happens at all.

Notre Dame and Navy have met every year since 1927, and the annual matchup is considered one of the most important rivalries in all of college football. If the streak were to end, players and fans from both programs would be upset.

The good news is that Midshipmen head coach Ken Niumatalolo expects the game to be played as scheduled.

Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo meeting with Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly after a game.
Head coaches Ken Niumatalolo (left) and Brian Kelly (right) are hopeful their two teams will meet this season. (Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo (left) talking with Notre Dame head Brian Kelly after a game. Niumatalolo is confident his team will play Notre Dame this season (AP Photo/Michael Conroy).)

“I feel pretty confident it’s going be going to be played,” he said. “Obviously, I read what’s going on with Notre Dame. They have all the resources to make sure that they’re testing and doing all they can. I know they got access to all the best doctors, all the best scientists and medical advice. I definitely know that they’re doing everything.

“They’ve got a great plan. Having played against coach [Brian] Kelly all these years, the guy is as detailed of a coach as there is out there in our profession.”

Part of his assertion also comes from the significant precautions the Navy football program, as well as the Naval Academy, have implemented in order to keep the players and coaching staff safe from the virus.

The Midshipmen only recently returned to football activities and every player was forced to quarantine prior to participating in team workouts. Of course, it also helps that the campus is surrounded by walls and gates, which allows the school to control who and how many people set foot inside.

Niumatalolo also knows that he has some of the most self-regulated players in the country, who are more than willing to adhere to strict safety guidelines and protocols.

“Hopefully, some of the discipline of the Naval Academy will allow us to be intact as a football team for our first game,” he said. “That's really been more of our message.”

Initially, Notre Dame and Navy were scheduled to play one another Aug. 29 in Dublin, Ireland, but that game was pushed back a week and relocated to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md. This will be the first time the Midshipmen have ever hosted the Fighting Irish in their own stadium.

This means that the Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan will ultimately have the final say as to whether or not it’s safe enough for the matchup to take place as planned.

But both Niumatalolo and Kelly know that what state and local politicians decided is out of their control and is dependent on how seriously the citizens of Maryland and Annapolis follow the recommended COVID-19 safety procedures. All they can do it manage their programs to the best of their abilities in order to keep everyone safe and prepared to play come September.

“I know who we’re playing and what they’re going to do,” Niumatalolo said. “I know what we’re doing. I know the precautions that are taking place at the Academy. If there’s any game you feel good about, it’s the first one.”

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