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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

San Diego State to play football next year in suburban LA

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SAN DIEGO — San Diego State will play its football games during the spring and fall 2021 seasons at a suburban Los Angeles soccer stadium and will raze 70,000-seat SDCCU Stadium earlier than planned to expedite construction of its new 35,000-seat venue.

The Aztecs announced Tuesday that they will play at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson until moving into their $310 million stadium for the 2022 season. The Aztecs broke ground on their new home last month after closing a deal with the city to purchase the Mission Valley stadium site for a campus expansion.

Dignity Health Sports Park is the 27,000-seat MLS stadium where the NFL’s Chargers played for three seasons after leaving San Diego because they couldn’t get a deal for a new stadium to replace the aging SDCCU Stadium, formerly known as Qualcomm Stadium and Jack Murphy Stadium. The Chargers moved into $5 billion Sofi Stadium in Inglewood, which was built by Rams owner Stan Kroenke.

Before COVID-19 forced the Mountain West Conference to postpone the 2020 season to next spring, the Aztecs were scheduled to play two more seasons at SDCCU Stadium. Athletic director John David Wicker said the Aztecs had hoped to play one more season there, but with the coronavirus pandemic interrupting schedules, decided to move up demolition of SDCCU Stadium to the first quarter of 2021.

Wicker said there is no other stadium in San Diego consistently available to host Division I football.

“Again, it’s a short-term thing,” Wicker said. “We are San Diego State University. We are going to be here forever. We’re excited that we are building a football stadium in San Diego. … We are part of this community. We’re just going to run up the road for a little bit to play football and then we’re going to come back and we’re going to open a phenomenal stadium and continue developing a campus that is great for San Diego.”

The multipurpose SDCCU Stadium opened in 1967 as San Diego Stadium and hosted the Chargers, baseball’s Padres, SDSU and the Holiday Bowl. The Padres moved to Petco Park downtown in 2004 and the Chargers left for LA after the 2016 season.

The stadium hosted three Super Bowls, two World Series, and many concerts and other events. The Rolling Stones were scheduled to open their 2020 tour there on May 8 before it was postponed due to the pandemic.

Rather than imploding SDCCU Stadium, Wicker said the concrete will be ground up and reused as a base for the new stadium.

Many fans expressed dismay on social media that they wouldn’t get to see another game at the stadium. SDSU hopes to sell seats and other memorabilia to fans, but likely won’t be able to host a farewell event amid the pandemic, Wicker said.

Air Force will play Army, Navy this season

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
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The Air Force Falcons will play two football games this season against fellow service academies Army and Navy.

The Falcons’ abbreviated schedule includes hosting Navy on Oct. 3 and a trip to West Point, New York, to face Army on Nov. 7. The military academies compete annually for the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, which goes to the academy with the best record in the round-robin competition.

The school announced Monday that only Air Force Academy cadets would be permitted to attend the game at Falcon Stadium due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They will social distance and wear masks. The base remains closed to the public.

“It’s certainly going to be a different game. It’s not going to look the same. It’s not going to feel the same,” Air Force director of athletics Nathan Pine said in a video posted on the school’s website. “But we’re going to have an opportunity to play Navy and that’s really important for the young men in our football program and really important for the physical mission at the academy. It’s something that is every bit worth the effort.”

Navy currently has possession of the trophy after beating both schools last season.

Air Force was in a holding pattern after its conference, the Mountain West, decided in August to postpone fall sports due to COVID-19 concerns. The team has been practicing since Aug. 24 in compliance with protocols.

No. 22 Army is off to a 2-0 start after beating Middle Tennessee State and Louisiana-Monroe. The Black Knights have 12 games listed on their schedule, but the contest against BYU has been postponed. The school’s athletic director took to Twitter in an effort to find a replacement.

Navy lost 55-3 to BYU on Sept. 7. The Midshipmen have 11 games listed, including Army on Dec. 12.

Last season, Air Force finished 11-2, which included a loss to Navy and a win over Army. The Falcons beat Washington State in the Cheez-It Bowl as they closed the season with an eight-game winning streak. It was their longest since 1998.

Coach Troy Calhoun returns a strong nucleus that includes inside linebacker Demonte Meeks, along with offensive linemen Parker Ferguson and Nolan Laufenberg. They were all named to the preseason all-Mountain West team.

The team plans to unveil a new uniform for the Navy game. The theme will be based around the Tuskegee Airmen, who were the first African American unit to fly combat airplanes in World War II.

“The Red Tails and the Tuskegee Airmen are a great piece of Air Force heritage,” Pine said.