Army football to play UConn at Yankee Stadium
Game scheduled for Nov. 8 on CBS Sports Network will be seventh in Bronx since '10
NEW YORK -- One of George Steinbrenner's wishes before his death in 2010 was that college football return to Yankee Stadium.
"Next to baseball, college football was his passion," said Yankees executive director of non-baseball events Mark Holtzman.
Army brought it back four months after the longtime owner passed, hosting Notre Dame in November 2010. The Yankees announced on Thursday that the service academy will play its 41st game in the Bronx, and third at the current Yankee Stadium, in November against the University of Connecticut.
The Nov. 8 game, scheduled to air on the CBS Sports Network at a time yet to be determined, will be the seventh college football game at the current Stadium. Army will also host Rutgers University in the Bronx in 2015, and the New Era Pinstripe Bowl will pit an Atlantic Coast Conference team against a Big Ten opponent this December.
"We now have a pretty significant college football program here," Holtzman said. "That could not have been possible if we hadn't started with Army playing Notre Dame four years back. Someone had to be the first game back here, and Army showed the faith in us to come back here and play a football game after so many years. We couldn't have done it without them."
UConn head coach Bob Diaco was the defensive coordinator for the Notre Dame team that beat Army, 27-3, in 2010.
"I've seen the glimmer in the student-athletes' eyes as they enter the stadium, are in the locker room, are on the field," Diaco said. "It's a life moment."
Diaco, the first-year head coach at Connecticut, grew up a Yankees fan about 30 minutes from the Stadium in Cedar Grove, N.J.
"My family has had Yankees tickets forever and ever and ever," Diaco said, "and they still do."
Connecticut athletic director Warde Manuel, a New Orleans native, became a Yankees fan by watching Ron Guidry, or "Louisiana Lightning," growing up.
First-year Army coach Jeff Monken, a Chicago-area native who grew up a Cubs fan, made his first trip to Yankee Stadium for the news conference, but was made aware of The Academy's commitment to playing games there when he interviewed for the job.
In addition to Army's four games at the current Stadium -- two already played and two scheduled -- it played 38 games at the original Stadium between 1923-69. The ties strengthened when the Yankees played a spring exhibition game on the West Point, N.Y., campus last year.
"People think of us as up-state," said Army athletic director Boo Corrigan. "We're 52 miles right now from where we were this morning."
Black Knights Alley will be set up outside the Stadium for Army fans, and Corrigan said there are discussions about cadets marching onto the field.
"Whenever you get an opportunity like this, it takes you forward," Corrigan said. "I think it gets us to a grander stage."
Holtzman said the Yankees long sought an opportunity to host UConn for a football game, and Corrigan suggested the idea to Manuel while the athletic directors negotiated a home-and-home series for the two programs. Army will travel to UConn's Rentschler Field in 2015.
While Manuel joked he would cut off half of UConn's fanbase, split between Boston and New York, by admitting to his Yankees leanings, he did not hide his respect for Army.
"As a proud son of an Army sergeant, it's a team that you root for when you're not playing against them," Manuel said.
And both teams expressed a shared excitement to join the Yankee Stadium tradition.
"When you talk about pride and talk about passion, you're talking about the Yankees," Diaco said. "To be in the stadium, it's a little surreal. To join the three brands -- the Yankee brand, the UConn brand and the West Point brand -- it's a great, great, competitive, classy, high-character venue."
Steven Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.