Navy football will log a significant amount of travel mileage as part of the 2018 schedule, which was officially announced on Tuesday morning.
With trips to Honolulu, San Diego, Dallas and New Orleans, the Midshipmen will be criss-crossing the country quite a bit next season.
Navy will travel a total of 26,496 miles in 2018, which will be the second most in the Football Bowl Subdivision and the most by a team located in the continental United States. Only Hawaii (38,578 miles) will travel more.
“This is obviously a very difficult schedule when you look at the quality of the opposition, the travel and where some of these games fall in the schedule,” said Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo. “I really like this team. Our entire program has to be totally committed to prepare for this very challenging schedule.”
Navy opens what figures to be a grueling campaign on the road at Hawaii on Sept. 1. It will be a homecoming for Niumatalolo, who hails from the town of Laie on the North Shore of Oahua.
Traveling almost 5,000 miles on a flight that lasts nearly 12 hours is not ideal way to open the season, but this is the back end of a home-and-home agreement between Navy and Hawaii. The Warriors came to Annapolis in 2013 and lost to the Midshpimen, 42-28.
“When we were an independent it was sometimes challenging to fill out a schedule,” Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said. “We really needed a fifth home game that year and I was able to convince Hawaii to come out. However, that came under the condition we would do a return game. So this was a contractual obligation we had to honor.”
Gladchuk said the guaranteed payout for the game would cover travel expenses to fly the football team to Hawaii. A hefty buyout clause prevented any discussion on getting out of the return game.
Now that Navy plays a difficult American Athletic Conference schedule to go along with the annual contets with Army, Air Force and Notre Dame, Gladchuk said he likely would not consider scheduling Hawaii again.
“It’s a long haul and a 13th game in a season that is extremely long to begin with,” he said. “I don’t believe I would do it going forward.”
Navy has a quick turnaround after returning from Hawaii as it must host host Memphis in the American Athletic Conference opener for both schools on Sept. 8. That figures to be a critical contest as the Tigers are the defending West Division champs in the AAC.
NCAA rules allow schools that travel to Hawaii to play an additional game, meaning the Midshipmen will meet 13 opponents instead of the usual 12 in 2018. Navy will host Football Championship Subdivision member Lehigh on Sept. 15 as the extra game. Lehigh captured the Patriot League championship with a 5-1 record then lost to Stonybrook in the first round of the FCS playoffs last season.
Gladchuk said reports that Navy would play Lehigh in the so-called “zero block” week were erroneous. Multiple media outlets reported the Mids would host the Mountain Hawks on Aug. 25, the weekend prior to when the full college football schedule began.
“That was just a rumor. There was never any final determination on a zero block game,” said Gladchuk, jokingly labeling it “fake news.”
As it stands now, Navy could be playing football from Sept. 1 through late December if it earns a bowl berth. There is also the possibility the Mids could make the American Athletic Conference Championship game, slated for Saturday, Dec. 1.
“If you add it up, I think the season is something like 20 weeks starting with August camp,” Gladchuk said. “Having a zero block game brings the players back even earlier to begin preseason practice. It just doesn’t make sense and the season is too long anyway.”
Another unusual road trip for Navy will come on Oct. 27 when it hosts Notre Dame in San Diego – a neutral site game that had previously been announced. That game is being organized by the Holiday Bowl committee and will be held at San Diego County Credit Union Stadium.
That facility, formerly known as Jack Murphy Stadium then Qualcomm Stadium, had been home to the San Diego Chargers of the National Football League before the franchise moved to Los Angeles.
Navy appeared in the now-defunct Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego four times from 2005 through 2014 with the most recent visit resulting in a 17-16 defeat of San Diego State. This will be the first time the Midshipmen have played a regular season game in San Diego since the 1997 opener against the Aztecs.
It marks the first time Notre Dame has ever played in San Diego and Holiday Bowl officials believe the matchup could produce a sellout at the 70,561-seat facility. Obviously, Navy is a huge draw in San Diego due to the high number of service members deployed in the region.
“One of the things we have always talked about and bought into is visibility in San Diego. We had that with the Poinsettia Bowl,” Gladchuk said. “When that bowl went away, there was nothing on the horizon that brought us back to San Diego. So playing Notre Dame out there is a great opportunity.”
Navy will close the year by playing five of its final six games away from Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium with road games against conference rivals Cincinnati (Nov. 3), Central Florida (Nov. 10) and Tulane (Nov. 24) all following the trip out west to face Notre Dame. The Midshipmen have never played at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati or Spectrum Stadium in Orlando.
In addition to Memphis and Lehigh, Navy has home games against Temple (Oct. 13), Houston (Oct. 20) and Tulsa (Nov. 17) with the latter serving as Senior Day. The Midshipmen have won 15 consecutive contests on Senior Day.
As always, Navy will close the regular season against archrival Army on Dec. 8 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
2018 Navy Football Schedule
Saturday, Sept. 1 at Hawaii
Sept. Sept. 8 vs. Memphis*
Saturday, Sept. 15 vs. Lehigh
Saturday, Sept. 22 at SMU*
Saturday, Oct. 6 at Air Force
Saturday, Oct. 13 vs. Temple*
Saturday, Oct. 20 vs. Houston* (Homecoming)
Saturday, Oct. 27 vs. Notre Dame#
Saturday, Nov. 3 at Cincinnati*
Saturday, Nov. 10 at UCF*
Saturday, Nov. 17 vs. Tulsa*
Saturday, Nov. 24 at Tulane*
Saturday, Dec. 1 vs. AAC Championship Game
Saturday, Dec. 8 vs. [email protected]
*AAC Conference Game
@Lincoln Financial Field