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Army rebuilt nearly its entire schedule on the fly

On Nov. 19, 2019, Army announced its 2020 football schedule.

Building the slate was, as always, a monumental endeavor years in the making. The Black Knights play 12 games a year; two are preordained, Navy and Air Force, and they're on their own for the other 10. This year's edition called for six home games, five of them over a 7-week span from Sept. 26 to Nov. 7, before closing with four straight games away from home.

The crown jewel of the schedule was a Sept. 26 home game with Oklahoma. It would be the Sooners' maiden voyage to West Point, the rematch of the 2018 game where the Black Knights took Kyler Murray and company to overtime on their home field, and the bookend of a home-and-home that was originally scheduled all the way back in 2009. The last opponent of a similar stature to visit Michie Stadium was Penn State, way back on Oct. 5, 1974.

Following a 5-8 campaign in 2019, the 2020 schedule provided Jeff Monken's team just the right mix to get back to a bowl game for the fourth time in five seasons.

Sept. 4 -- Bucknell
Sept. 12 -- at Rice
Sept. 26 -- Oklahoma
Oct. 3 -- at Miami (Ohio)
Oct. 10 -- Princeton
Oct. 17 -- Eastern Michigan
Oct. 24 -- Buffalo
Nov. 7 -- Air Force
Nov. 14 -- at Tulane
Nov. 21 -- at UMass
Nov. 28 -- at UConn
Dec. 12 -- vs. Navy (at Philadelphia)

And then the coronavirus hit, and Army's schedule started crumbling, bit by bit.

July 9: Ivy League cancels fall season, eliminating the Princeton game

July 13: Patriot League cancels fall season, eliminating the Bucknell game

Aug. 3: Oklahoma announces it will not make the trip to West Point; a makeup date remains TBD

Aug. 5: UConn becomes first FBS school to cancel fall season

Aug. 8: MAC cancels football, eliminating the Miami, Eastern Michigan and Buffalo games

Aug. 11: UMass cancels fall season, Rice delays start of season to Sept. 26

The Mountain West canceled its fall season Aug. 10, Air Force's games with both Army and Navy remain on the schedule.

After all that, Army's schedule looked like this.

Nov. 7 -- Air Force
Nov. 14 -- at Tulane
Dec. 12 -- vs. Navy (at Philadelphia)

"We remain steadfast in competing this fall," AD Mike Buddie said. "Competing in athletics is tightly woven into the fabric of the Academy's mission. It supports the 47-month cadet experience necessary to prepare our cadet-athletes for officership in the United States Army. Unlike at other institutions, our cadets cannot retain extra years of eligibility. I will do everything within my power to ensure they get the opportunity to play."

To date, Army hasn't announced any new opponents. In fact, the Rice game still remains scheduled for Sept. 12, even though the Owls have announced they're not coming -- at least not on the original date.

But Buddie has been hard at work lining up new opponents on the fly. In fact, the Knights might wind up with more home games than they originally intended.

According to the Times Record-Herald, Army's tentative schedule now looks like this. The Middle Tennessee and Georgia Southern games have been confirmed by the opponents, but all others remain unconfirmed. New additions are in bold.

(Update: Since the original publication of this article, Army has announced each of the previously unconfirmed games and added two more with The Citadel and UTSA, while moving the Mercer game from Oct. 10 to Oct. 24. Army's announcement indicates the Academy is still looking to add a Sept. 26 opponent. Second update: Cincinnati has announced it will host Army on Sept. 26. )

Sept. 5 -- Middle Tennessee
Sept. 12 -- Louisiana-Monroe
Sept. 19 -- BYU
Sept. 26 -- at Cincinnati
Oct. 3 -- Abilene Christian
Oct. 10 -- The Citadel
Oct. 17 -- at UTSA
Oct. 24 -- Mercer
Nov. 7 -- Air Force
Nov. 14 -- at Tulane
Nov. 21 -- Georgia Southern
Dec. 12 -- vs. Navy (at Philadelphia)

The Rice game could easily slide in on Oct. 17, 24 or 31, depending on how Conference USA rearranges its schedule. (Rice is off Oct. 17.)

For Army, this is a case of supply and demand tilting wildly in their favor. Group of 5 and FCS teams are still in search of as many games as they can schedule due to competitive and financial reasons, while the market dried up quickly with the Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC went conference-only (and, of course, the first two canceled entirely) and the Big 12 and ACC limited themselves to one non-conference game per team.

Those moves reduced the total number of Power 5 non-conference games by nearly 90 percent, from 226 in a normal year to 24 in 2020. So it's not a mystery why Army has found so many takers for its nine openings in such a short time.

And even if the hastily-arranged games fall off the schedule due to later cancellations, we know at least one Army opponent won't fall off the schedule.

"If there’s only one game we’re going to play, it’s the Army-Navy game," Navy AD Chet Gladchuk said last month. "Unless the pandemic is such at the time that we’re precluded by the city of Philadelphia to play that game, we have every intention of playing Army-Navy."