BYU strikes deal with Navy to kick off the 2020 season with Labor Day game

After weeks of seeing the 2020 football schedule take hit after hit, BYU has started piecing it back together again. The first step toward getting a full schedule was to find a game to kick off the season with.

That’ll be against the Naval Academy on Sept. 7.

The Cougars were originally scheduled to take on Utah at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Sept. 3. But with Utah bowing out after the Pac-12 opted for a conference-only schedule, BYU will instead open the 2020 season with a nationally featured game on ESPN at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland, on Labor Day.

“We are very excited for the opportunity to play the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis,” BYU Director of Athletics Tom Holmoe said in a press statement. “It’s always an honor and a privilege to play against a service academy, like we did annually for many years with Air Force. We first played the Midshipmen in the inaugural Holiday Bowl in 1978. The opportunity to visit Navy’s hallowed campus will be an amazing experience for our football team.”

The season opener is part of a two-game series with Navy. Details for the game at LaVell Edwards Stadium will be announced at a later date.

The arrangement gives Navy a season-opening opponent after the Midshipmen lost their date with Notre Dame. In a one-year arrangement, the Irish were invited into the Atlantic Coast Conference, which will also play a conference-only schedule.

Navy coach Ken Nuimatalolo said that while athletic director Chet Gladchuk was in charge of scheduling decisions, he wanted to make sure they found not just a strong opponent, but a program that has a strong set of protocols in place to ensure player safety.

BYU checked all the boxes and then some.

“There were a lot of different factors that Chet had to deal with,” Nuimatalolo said. “But considering everything, this worked out the best for us. Obviously, it looked like it worked for BYU — what fit for them. We’re excited. It’s going to be a tough battle, but we’re excited for it.”

This will be the first time since 1927 that Navy and Notre Dame won't face off. The programs held the longest continuous intersectional rivalry in college football at 93 games.

The Labor Day contest will be the third meeting between BYU and Navy. After the teams met at the inaugural Holiday Bowl in 1978, when Navy won 23-16, BYU evened the series in 1989 when the Cougars won 31-10 in Annapolis.

“Speaking on behalf of our players and coaches, we are extremely excited for this opportunity to play Navy on Labor Day to open the 2020 season and appreciate all the work put in by Tom Holmoe and Navy to schedule this game,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said in a press statement. “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. Ken [Nuimatalolo] is a great football coach and a personal friend who I have known since I was young and always admired both as a person and as a coach. We are looking forward to the matchup.”