In 2020, one of college football’s oldest rivalry will return to Dublin as Notre Dame take on Navy in a season opener at the Aviva Stadium.
The pair have met on Irish soil twice before, with the last game coming in 2012 and saw ‘The Fighting Irish’ defeat their rivals by 50-10.
One man who had a massive influence in bringing the historic game to Irish shores seven years ago was Navy’s athletic director Chet Gladchuk Jr.
A former player in with Boston College, Gladchuk took up his role at the United States Naval Academy in 2001 and has overseen a tremendous upturn in their fortunes on the gridiron.
Over in Dublin and deep in preparations for next year’s game, Gladchuk spoke exclusively to Pundit Arena and outlined that the success of the event in 2012 has made negotiating its return a far smoother affair.
“The biggest difference from when we came over in 2012, we were acting as an athletics department a little bit independently, meeting with the police, meeting with the Aviva, negotiating independent contracts, meeting with the tourism board, the government, the ambassador etc, it was basically a first time through.
“We hadn’t been here since 1996 so it was developing relationships, it was negotiating contracts, it was trying to set the stage logistically. I think the game was so well received and successful in 2012, we had a tremendous surge of rekindling relationships and a welcoming that is extraordinary. People are looking forward to seeing it happen again.
“We’ve got some co-ordinated efforts here that have been very very easy to re-engage and rekindle. It’s been a wonderful trip. It seems as though everyone has been prepared for the game based on the fact that the last one was such a success.”
Over 48,000 fans attended the Aviva Stadium in 2012, with an estimated 35,000 of those coming from America and providing a massive boost to the Irish economy at the time.
Gladchuk explained the early indications from his side are that next year’s game will be an even bigger success in terms of attendance and sales.
“It was interesting because most of the attendance was part of the surge from America that came over,” explained Gladchuk.
“I think we sold like 35,000 tourist packages as part of the game so the infusion, at least I’m told, was in the vicinity of $85 million over the course of the week. It touched a lot of people in a lot of different ways, especially in the business community with the influx of fans.
“Many of them stayed for a week, they didn’t just come in for the game they stayed and were part of the country for that period of time.
“Right now I’m told by our logistics person who deals with all the tourism and ticket sales internationally that we are more than a hundred percent ahead in terms of our sales and commitments than where we were in 2012. People are looking forward to it, they are responding well.
“The city has welcomed us with open arms and like I said it’s been more of a reacquainting with a wonderful relationship than having to plough new soil.”
Gladchuk also provided a fascinating insight into the origins of the special relationship between the two teams which he explained dates back as far as World War II.
“I think that for starters if you go back to when the rivalry began it was during the war, World War II, in Notre Dame because so many of the youth at that time joined the military and were out fighting battles on so many different fronts that the attendance enrollment at Notre Dame was waining.
“Notre Dame and the Navy got together and created a plan where thousands and thousands of young trainees would go to South Bend to enroll in the university of Notre Dame, become part of their student body, while they trained with a military purpose. That relationship in many respects was instrumental in keeping the school vibrant and alive and continuing with their education. They never forgot that.
“They’ve always been grateful for the fact that the Navy came to their aid at a time when their dwindling enrollment could have actually put them out of business.
“So we forged a bond back in those days and made a committment to each other that we would always play every year annually a football game regardless of the circumstances going forward and we’ve done that.
“It’s the longest standing inter-sectional rivalry in all of college football. Intersectionally meaning we’re in our part of the country, they are in their part of the country and we have just never let the game get away from us and wain. We play in South Bend every other year and when it’s Navy’s home game what we do is we take it all over the country.
“We’ve played in San Diego, Jacksonville, Baltimore, Washington, we move it to an NFL venue but of course one of the features that is so important to both institutions is to play a game on occasion, as we’ve started now, in a wonderful country like Ireland. We hope this can become not an annual thing but at least every 10 years.”