SHENANIGANS

Army-Navy is played on the second Saturday in December. Conference championship games are played a weekend earlier. When Navy elected to join the American Athletic Conference, it created the possibility for the somewhat unusual scenario where Navy could still have a regular season game to play after already appearing in a conference championship game. (It’s unusual for football, anyway. It happens all the time in other sports, like lacrosse). Other than the timing feeling a little weird, it isn’t really an issue since Army-Navy will be a non-conference game.

The creation of the College Football Playoff adds another layer of complexity to the whole equation, though. Not only are conference championship games played the weekend before Army-Navy, but the New Year’s 6 bowl pairings are announced as well. This could potentially create a problem. Navy, by being a member of the American, would be eligible for the New Year’s 6 bowl slot reserved for the highest-ranking Group of 5 conference champion if the Mids win the league. But how can you name the G5 representative if one of their conference champs still has a game left to play?

Pretty easily, actually. All it would take is a little bit of contingency planning.

Let’s say that the G5 bowl berth came down to Navy and Boise State as the champions of their respective conferences. This is assuming that Army-Navy even matters; it’s entirely possible that, say, a 1-loss Navy team would get the G5 nod from the committee regardless of the Army-Navy result if the other G5 champs have 3 or 4 losses apiece. But let’s assume for now that Navy and Boise State are close enough in the committee’s eyes that they’ll want to know the result of Army-Navy before deciding on the G5 representative. In that case, the two conferences and their bowls can simply work out an arrangement. If Navy wins, they can head to the Peach Bowl or whichever NY6 bowl is in the rotation, and Boise can head to the Las Vegas Bowl. If Navy doesn’t win, the Boise can go to the NY6 and Navy can head to Vegas. Piece of cake, right? The schools can even begin selling tickets to either one, and just give refunds for the game that doesn’t come to pass. It’s possible that one conference’s bowl games wouldn’t want to take another conference’s champion; a bowl contracted to the American might not want a west coast team, for example. In that case, each conference’s bowl partners can simply offer conditional invites. The AAC operates the Miami Beach Bowl anyway, so I’m sure they’d have no problem making the necessary arrangements. It’s not that hard.

Craig Thompson doesn’t want to hear that, though. He’s the commissioner of the Mountain West. You remember the Mountain West, right? They’re the conference that made special arrangements so Boise State’s home games would be sold as a different television package, all to the detriment of the league as a whole. Somewhat ironically, Thompson doesn’t want any accommodations for Army-Navy:

“All games should be done by Selection Sunday for those teams to be considered for a College Football Playoff bowl,” Thompson said.

But why? He wasn’t quoted as giving a reason in the article. Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson is also said to take issue with Army-Navy, but he’s probably only latching onto this to make his conference seem like a bigger player than it is. The two strongest conferences in the G5 are clearly the American and the Mountain West, making Thompson the likely driving force behind this story. His conference has the most to gain, and despite any reason he might give in follow-up articles on the subject, this is his true motivation.

The simplest and most reasonable course of action here would be to simply have the aforementioned contingency plans in place. Other commissioners have raised concerns that perhaps other schools would want to schedule games on the second Saturday of December, but that’s easy enough to get around. Just make a rule that nobody else can start scheduling games that weekend. Army-Navy could just be grandfathered in, since the game’s second-Saturday date precedes the creation of the College Football Playoff. It’s not as if Navy gains any kind of advantage toward gaining the G5 NY6 bowl berth by playing that weekend. If anything, playing Army-Navy the week after a conference championship game is a competitive disadvantage.

For Thompson, that’s not really the point. His “play it as it lies” stance is completely self-serving. The Army-Navy Game is a threat to his conference, and to Air Force in particular. With Navy joining the American, Army-Navy is about to become a showcase game for that conference. It’s something that no Mountain West game even comes close to matching. Not only is this exposure for the American, but it will add tremendous value to that league’s television package when it comes up for renegotiation (the AAC’s ESPN deal happens to end at the same time as Navy’s CBS deal. That’s not a coincidence). Once the true value of the total AAC TV package is realized, the MWC’s Boise-or-bust arrangement is going to look even worse than it does now. It will be harder for his conference to be competitive from top to bottom. Not only that, but Air Force clearly feels threatened by the Army-Navy game; their coaches’ Twitter accounts make that rather obvious.

There are three likely outcomes from this, with two of them being favorable to the Mountain West. If the CFP decides that Navy wouldn’t be eligible for an NY6 bowl, Thompson will have succeeded in potentially eliminating his strongest rival’s champion from consideration, paving the way for his own. If Army-Navy is forced to move, he will have succeeded in hurting his competition’s television value while scoring a recruiting win for one of his conference’s members. These types of tactics are par for the course with Thompson and the Mountain West, who you might recall worked to break up the WAC in order to prevent BYU’s athletic department from having a place to land after they left the MWC.

Thompson didn’t succeed in retaining BYU then, and he shouldn’t succeed in his transparent efforts to hamstring the Army-Navy game now. Army-Navy is the traditional end of the regular season. It’s a staple of the college football landscape, and certainly much bigger than whatever quibbles Thompson wants to raise. The third possible outcome– just having a contingency plan in place– is far more reasonable. Regardless of whatever jokes people want to make about college football and common sense, I expect sanity to prevail.

Postgame Haiku, Vol.86

Navy wins again
Doesn’t have to be pretty
When it’s beautiful

ARMY WEEK: MONKEN’S MAGNUM OPUS

Football commentary from national outlets, for the most part, sucks. Whether in print or over-the-air, discussion of the game consists primarily of clichés and conventional wisdom regurgitation being passed off as insight. There’s a reason for this. It’s hard enough to be knowledgeable and detailed when discussing one program. When there’s over 100 in the entire FBS, there’s no way anyone can speak with authority on all of them. The talking heads can’t tell their audience that, of course, so instead they give us talking points. It doesn’t matter how true they are; they just have to make you sound smart. Repeat them enough, and they’ll be accepted as fact.

When you’re a fan of an option football team, you’re quite familiar with the talking points. Tell me if you’ve heard this before:

*clears throat*

“Defending this offense is all about assignment football. You need one man on the dive, one man on the quarterback, and one man on the pitch. And you need to hit the quarterback on every play. If you do that, you can get them off schedule, and this offense isn’t built for 3rd & long. It’s not a quick-strike offense, so if you get an early lead you can force them to throw the ball, which isn’t their strength. It’s not an offense designed to come from behind.”

Yeah, we might’ve heard that once or twice or every day.

Continue reading

Navy to Wear Custom Under Armour – NAVYSPORTS.com – The United States Naval Academy Official Athletic Site

Navy to Wear Custom Under Armour – NAVYSPORTS.com – The United States Naval Academy Official Athletic Site.

Hot fire, people. Hot fire.

ARMY WEEK

Army lost to Yale.

ABOUT THE FOG…

Yesterday was the annual Army-Navy media luncheon, and things are already off to a… well, interesting start. The main party from West Point (team captains, head coach, and AD) didn’t make the trip after their flight was cancelled due to fog, and instead joined in via teleconference. Chet Gladchuk was not pleased. I’m sure that some people were taken aback by the bluntness of the Navy AD’s comments, and the “no excuses, nobody cares” line sort of rubbed me the wrong way, too. However, Gladchuk had every right to be upset, and had to say something.

First, you have to understand what the Army-Navy luncheon is. Calling it a press conference would be a bit of an understatement. This is more like a full media day, and the kickoff for a week of events leading up to the game. There are representatives from the city of Baltimore and the Ravens as hosts of the event. The title sponsor of the game, USAA, is also represented. Local and national media are in attendance. This isn’t a few guys at a table with microphones in their faces. It’s a big deal, and Army’s absence put Chet in an awkward position.

The Army-Navy game is a business partnership. Cities and companies like USAA invest in the Army-Navy game because they believe in the Army-Navy product and trust that both Army and Navy will do everything they can to deliver a return on that investment. With Army not showing up, it left Navy holding the bag in a room full of people who have these expectations. If your business partner didn’t show up for something like this, wouldn’t you be upset too? Gladchuk explained this after the luncheon:

“I don’t know what their issues are. I just know that the City of Baltimore deserves – with the energy and the commitment they’ve made to this game – they deserve everything that we can give them,” he said. “ … And I’m disappointed that Army wasn’t able to be here.”

Gladhuk said talk to Army about the reasons.

“But in the final analysis, it’s OUR package,” he said. “It’s not their package. It’s not my package. It’s our package. It’s the academies. … What we talk about is we deliver on every front, okay, and we didn’t deliver today.”

Gladchuk was upset because he knows his product, and he knows what the Army-Navy partnership is expected to deliver. He was the one left apologizing to stakeholders at the podium because that partnership didn’t come through that day. You’d be upset too.

Army’s misstep isn’t the end of the world, but it shouldn’t be dismissed as no big deal, either. The Army-Navy Game is everything to these two programs, now more than ever. While the sports media is busy obsessing over the playoff committee and Jameis Winston and coach searches, there was still a room full of media members who carved out time to give Army and Navy their undivided attention. We are in an era where the have vs. have-not split makes that kind of exposure nearly impossible for schools like ours. This is our Super Bowl, and everything about this game has to be a top priority. I understand the inconvenience of the weather, but if your flight is cancelled then you drive or take a train. Maybe you get to Baltimore late, but your efforts will demonstrate to everyone in attendance how important this game is, which is vital. If we don’t make this game a top priority, nobody else will, either.

That’s the Way It Was

“Yesterday’s football game between Annapolis and West Point is the first instance on record of competition between the two national institutions. In army and navy circles it is looked upon as the beginning of a series which will vie in importance with any of the great intercollegiate matches.”

-The New York Times, November 30, 1890

One of the cooler things that has been showing up on the internet is an expanding collection of newspaper archives, going back about as long as there has been a press.   Way easier than poring through leather volumes of periodicals or blinding microfiche in Nimitz Library, I find it enjoyable to read how historic events well-known to us today were portrayed to the public when they actually happened.  Curious about how the sinking of the MAINE was reported the day after?  You got it.  How did she do in sea trials?  Got that too.    It’s a glut of information, if you want it, as well as a certain drain of time.

Of course, all this gives us is another angle from which to blather about Navy sports.  Especially given the prominent role Navy played in the early years of collegiate athletics, there is a potential windfall of material out there most of us have never seen.  In that vein, I think it would be fun to inspect well-known events in Navy sports history through the words of the journalists of the day.  And what better place to start, than the very first Army-Navy game?

Wax your moustache, call for your pipe and your bowl, and loosen your high rise trou.  This was Navy Football in 1890.

Click on the Picture:

Quick Takes:

Say What?

“When victory finally perched on the maroon and white colors of the Naval Academy … “

We won the cheering competition, apparently:

A group of naval  sympathizers … gives in startling chorus this cry:  “Rah, rah, rah!  Hi, ho, hah!  U. S. N. A!  Boom, siss, bah!  The Navee!” There is so much of this cheer and it is given so vehemently that the army looks frightened for a moment.  At this point however the West Point team appears. … It is greeted with a rousing “Rah, rah, rah!  U. S. M. A!”

Gonna have to keep our ears perked to hear if Keenan calls any of these audibles this season:

“Splice the mainbrace!” shouts the Captain of the navy, and immediately a hole is made in the army’s centre.  “Tack ship!” is the cry, and off for the end dashes a half back.  “Wear ship!” and off goes another for the other end.  “Anchors in sight!”  “Veer chains!”  “Reef topsails!” and “Savez the Bobstay!” are other examples of this marvelous code of signals caught during the game.

I’m guessing RADM Luce would not have been cool with filling in Dewey Basin for a sports field:

In a recent paper before the United States Naval Institute Rear Admiral Luce severely deprecated the tendency of men in the navy to resort to sport on shore.  He pointed out that there was too much baseball and too much football; that instead of finding recreation in boat sailing, rowing, swimming, and the like the young naval apprentice and officers generally found it more congenial to seek sport on land. The Admiral believed the navy tended too much toward the military.

(Don’t look at me, I passed my kayaking class.)

And finally, it looks like NAAA has had our athletes’ backs from day 1:

Another thing that struck terror in the heart of the army was the announcement in confidence from the navy that the discipline at Annapolis had permitted the football team to eat hot beefsteak for supper, a privilege not accorded to any other naval cadet.  Such consideration and co-operation on the part of a Faculty almost unnerved the army, but it grittily determined if it must die it would die in the glory of doing its utmost to avoid defeat.

Verily, there shall be hot beefsteak for all.

There’s a lot of humor in articles from this time period, and more than enough hyperbole.  But one can’t help but be struck by how interchangeable some of the themes are from that era to ours.  The struggle to find balance between brains and brawn, Athens and Sparta in training midshipman?  At least 124 years old it seems.  Institutional policies affecting the competitiveness of the respective service academies against one another?  It started with the menu for evening meal.  Intense alumni interest in the running of affairs at their commissioning source?  “Every officer in the [Army], it is said, will take this defeat directly to heart, and no matter what Col. Wilson’s personal ideas may be on the subject, it is believed impossible for him to resist, even should he feel so desirous, the temptation to bring these two teams together again.”

Everything old is new again.

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