A Simple Solution for Army-Navy

Now that wasn’t so hard, was it?

The College Football Playoff management committee has recommended that the College Football Playoff semifinals and/or New Year’s Six bowls be held open until after the Army-Navy game is played if either school is in the running for the games.

The recommendation still has to be approved by the conferences, but it’s expected to pass. And with that, the offseason’s biggest mountain has been reduced to a more appropriately-sized molehill.

No, Army-Navy Being Played After Bowl Bids Are Announced Is Not “Bad For College Football”

In the dust-up over whether the Army-Navy Game should be moved to accommodate the College Football Playoff’s timetable for announcing access bowl bids, it appears that there might be some progress being made toward a common-sense solution:

Under discussion: If Navy is that highest-ranked team going into the Army game, a loss would drop it to the bowl inhabited by the No. 2 Group of Five team. The CFP Selection Committee would make that determination with its rankings.

“I know that there is a discussion about it,” Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk told CBSSports.com. “Call it a popular consideration.”

This is the same suggestion I made back in January, not that it was some stroke of genius on my part. It just seemed like a pretty simple accommodation.

Simplicity isn’t everyone’s goal here, though. The Mountain West has an interest in knocking the Army-Navy game down a peg, so commissioner Craig Thompson had to find someone in the media to get his message across. That message?

The simple fact is the stubbornness exhibited by those parties is bad for college football.

Bad for college football. The Army-Navy Game being played on the second Saturday of December is bad for college football.

That sounds like some weapons-grade hyperbole. There has to be some hard-hitting reasoning behind such a bold statement, right? Well…

“Let’s say everything is delayed a week,” Thompson said. “That gives a Mountain West team seven days, from Saturday to Saturday, to go to the Las Vegas Bowl. It’s hard enough now on Dec. 5 having barely a couple of full weeks to get ready for it. One week would be, c’mon.”

———————–

“I’m a full American,” Thompson said. “I’m all in favor of the Army-Navy game. I think it’s a tremendous athletic event, but it’s disruptive to 128-plus other FBS schools.”

That’s the only reason that was given. This is apparently what’s “bad for college football.”

It’s an utterly ridiculous claim. Playing Army-Navy after the CFP makes its selections isn’t “disruptive to 128-plus other FBS schools.” It might be disruptive to one: the second-ranked Group of Five champion, if that champion is from the Mountain West, and if that champion is close enough to Navy in the eyes of the CFP committee for the Army-Navy results to even matter. Nobody else would have reason to care.

If Thompson is concerned that his champion won’t have enough time to prepare for the Las Vegas Bowl, then it makes more sense to move that game. Between the Las Vegas Bowl and Army-Navy, which one has been played longer? Which one has the better attendance? Which one has more people coming in from out of town? Which one has the bigger television audience? Which one is the more valuable media property?  Why move a fixture of college football’s regular season for the sake of a bowl game, when bowl game dates change every year? The value of the Las Vegas Bowl wouldn’t be any different if it was played on a later date, and it could have just as much time to promote itself as it does now.

(It should also be noted that Navy won the Poinsettia Bowl only 10 days after playing Army last year.)

It would be easier to move the Las Vegas Bowl if Thompson’s concern was truly rooted in preparation time for his champion, but it isn’t. Thompson sees this situation as an opportunity to weaken a rival conference, and to remove a thorn that has been in Air Force’s side since the school was created. To argue that this is out of some greater concern for college football would be humorous if it wasn’t so conniving.

You know what’s really bad for college football? That a system exists whereby the schools that have every financial and competitive advantage can quite literally write their own rules– rules that codify these advantages to ensure that they will be maintained forever. Among the schools left on the outside looking in, there is but one property with a financial heft comparable to those owned by the powerful. And who is looking to take that property away? Not the “Power 5″ conferences. They couldn’t care less. No, this is a challenge from another “have not” with an “if we can’t have it, no one can” attitude. Thompson’s Mountain West spent most of its existence criticizing the BCS monopoly, but now it wants everyone to fall in line for the good of college football? Nothing disingenuous there!

The Army-Navy Game has been the cherry on top of college football’s regular season for as long as anyone can remember. Based on the game’s ratings, that’s exactly where people want it to be. That there is some hypothetical scenario that might inconvenience the Mountain West is not reason enough to move the game. Some might choose to label Army and Navy as “stubborn.” Maybe it’s true. But in a world where so much of the fun and tradition of college football is being killed off for the sake of the Power 5’s bottom line, thank goodness someone is willing to be.

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, then 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 (Navy is still obligated to fulfill its contract with CBS and will not be part of the AAC’s package until that expires). 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.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 290 other followers