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Army-Navy game is moving from Philadelphia to West Point due to attendance restrictions at the Linc

The 121st meeting of the two service academies had been scheduled at Lincoln Financial Field. It will be the first time one of the academies has hosted the game since 1943.

Army Cadets cheering during the 120th Army-Navy football game on Dec. 14, 2019, at Lincoln Financial Field.
Army Cadets cheering during the 120th Army-Navy football game on Dec. 14, 2019, at Lincoln Financial Field.Read moreELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer

The Army-Navy game has been played in Philadelphia 89 times. The long-awaited 90th meeting in the City of Brotherly Love is going to have to wait a little longer, another change resulting from the pandemic.

The two academies announced Friday that the 121st edition of the storied rivalry will take place at Michie Stadium in West Point, N.Y., home of the U.S. Military Academy, on the originally scheduled date of Dec. 12.

The contest had to be moved from Philadelphia because the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has attendance limits in place for outdoor events. For Lincoln Financial Field, which this year would have hosted its 14th Army-Navy game, up to 7,500 people, only 15% of maximum occupancy, would have been allowed to attend.

That would not allow the entire Corps of Cadets and Brigade of Midshipmen — estimated to be around 9,000 — to attend. Instead, the game will be played at Army — the designated host team in 2020 — for the first time since 1943, which was the last occasion when a home site hosted the game.

The joint news release from both academies said it was “unlikely” that spectators would be allowed in the stadium beyond the Corps and the Brigade.

“We want to thank the City of Philadelphia, the Eagles and all involved in the planning for their efforts to navigate this historic game in the current COVID-19 climate,” Army athletic director Mike Buddie said in the news release. “We are excited about this historic opportunity to host Navy and the Brigade inside the gates of West Point for the first time since 1943.”

Navy leads the all-time series, 61-52. There have been seven ties.

“Every effort was made to create a safe and acceptable environment for the Brigade, the Corps and our public while meeting city and state requirements,” Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said. "However, medical conditions and protocols dictate the environment in which we live.

“Therefore, on to the safe haven of West Point on Dec. 12, and let it ring true that even in the most challenging of times, the spirit and intent of the Brigade of Midshipmen and the Corps of Cadets still prevails.”

Larry Needle, executive director of PHL Sports, a division of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the city will miss hosting the game between the academies “in their true home.”

“We fully support and understand the decision that the academies have made around this year’s game,” Needle said. "Certainly there have been ongoing conversations with the city and the state and the Eagles in an effort to try to make it happen, but the decision was made.

“This is really the right decision from a public health perspective and just ensuring the safety and health of everyone involved with the event, including the Corps and the Brigade.”

The current agreement between the city and the two academies has two more years to run. The 2021 Army-Navy game is scheduled to be held at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., to honor the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, with the 2022 game to be hosted at the Linc.

The classic game has been contested at four sites in Philadelphia – 41 games at Municipal/JFK Stadium, 18 at Franklin Field, 17 at Veterans Stadium and 13 at Lincoln Financial Field. Navy has won 45 times in the city, compared to 40 victories for Army and four ties.