WATCHING THE AMERICAN

This time next year, we’ll be talking about the American Athletic Conference championship game.

This year, though, the American joins the Big 12 in adding to the slate of non-championship games this weekend. Memphis clinched a share of the championship last week, and UCF joined them at 9-3 (7-1) Thursday night with a Hail Mary win over East Carolina. Cincinnati can match those records, hosting Houston. The conference will declare co-champions, and allow the College Football Playoff Committee to choose one if there is a shot at the Cotton/Peach/Fiesta access bowl. Memphis is presently ranked ahead of the others, and in the only game between the three beat Cincinnati in October, so they probably look the best to the committee. However, that is an increasingly small chance: Boise State should clinch that bid with a win today, and Northern Illinois made its own strong case dominating the MAC conference championship game for the Huskies’ 11th win. Marshall could still look better than one of our tri-champions as well with a similarly strong performance in the CUSA championship.

Farther down the food chain in the American, Temple is trying to improve to 6-6 and get bowl eligible at Tulane. (Is this where I mention that SMU is looking for the Mustangs’ first win, visiting 2-9 UConn? Okay, done.)

The Owls would be the sixth bowl-eligible team in the conference. Without an access bowl bid, the American has five bowl tie-ins, and Temple might not be able to secure a bowl spot left open by another conference. The American’s bowl line up looks pretty good this year: BYU, two matchups with the ACC, one with the SEC, and supposedly a Big 12 backup to Army in the Armed Forces Bowl (depending on how Playoff and New Year’s Day slots go out, Big 12 may not meet all their primary tie-ins though, much less secondary ones.) Next year’s lineup for the expanded American expands to seven games, but only one each against the SEC and ACC, while covering the waterfront against the other Group of FIve teams.

Navy Notables – 12/5/14

It was a pretty quiet yesterday in Navy sports news, so we’ll be brief today.

In case you missed them, there were a couple of pieces on the blog yesterday you should read.  Mike addressed Army’s absence at the Army-Navy media luncheon and explained why Chet said what he said.  Later in the day, slhnavy91 took a look at the Poinsettia Bowl and who the potential opponents may be.

Alabama’s Rivals site has a nice article on the Kelly family playing football at Navy and Bama.  Mike Kelly is a youngster outside linebacker for the Midshipmen, while older brother Ryan is a junior and 2-year starter at center for the Crimson Tide.

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WATCHING THE MOUNTAIN WEST

Navy’s Poinsettia Bowl opponent will not be known until Sunday, officially.

However, there are a lot of projections that the Midshipmen will face San Diego State. ESPN thinks so. Phil Steele thinks so. CBS Sports thinks so. Heck, I shook up my Magic 8 Ball, and it said “All signs point to San Diego State.”

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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.

Navy Notables – 12/4/14

The bench for Navy women’s basketball came alive on Tuesday and lead the Mids to a come-from-behind 55-51 victory over visiting Towson.  After struggling to 30 points in the first 31 minutes of the game, the ladies outscored the Tigers 25-10 in the closing 9 to secure the victory.  Of the 55 points scored by Navy, 42 came off the bench.  It was not a game for those who like to see effective shooting: Towson was 0-14 from three while Navy shot just 5-of-26.  And both teams shot below 37% for the game.  But when it came to crunch time, Navy got the hot hand.  Over those final 9 minutes, Navy was 50% from beyond the arc, 64% from the field, and 82% at the free throw line.  This victory ends a six game home stand where the Mids went 5-1.  This weekend they fly out to the Pacific Northwest for a pair of games against Portland State and Oregon.

Men’s basketball fell at home last night to previously winless Penn 57-46.  It was pretty much over by halftime as the Quakers closed on a 28-11 run.  Navy did clamp down in the 2nd half, allowing just 19 points.  But the Mids were themselves just 33% from the field in the final 20 minutes, including a paltry 2-for-12 from three.  This isn’t the start to the season we may have expected after watching Navy hang with Michigan State in the opener.  But we also didn’t expect so many injuries.  As Bill Wagner of the Capital Gazette writes, Navy Coach Ed DeChellis has used a lot of freshmen in a year when we expected to have more depth.  Yes, it’s disheartening, but the team should be healthier for the start of Patriot League at the end of the month.

Men’s soccer senior defender Joseph Greenspan has been selected as a semifinalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy, the top individual award in collegiate soccer, by the National Coaches Soccer Association of America (NSCAA).  This continues a string of accolades for Greenspan, who won his second consecutive Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year award this year.  He is one of just two defenders among the 16 semifinalists.  Greenspan anchored a Navy defense that had a 0.65 goals against average and tallied 9 clean sheets in 20 matches.  We’ll keep an eye out for the announcement of All-American teams, as Greenspan is sure to be present on a good many of those as well.

Women’s soccer senior defender Jade Seabrook was named to the All-Mid-Atlantic Region First Team by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America for the third consecutive year (a 1st for Navy).  Previously, Seabrook had been named the Patriot League defender of the year.  She lead the team in minutes played with 1,832 and tallied 11 points on 4 goals and 3 assists.

Senior men’s basketball guard Kevin Alter has been nominated for the Allstate NABC Good Works Team.  The award is designed to recognize student-athletes who are involved with their communities and dedicate their time to helping others.  Alter volunteers with Covenant House, a homelessness shelter in Washington DC and works with his hometown (Rumson, NJ) to raise money for Homes for Our Troops.

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Navy Notables 12/02/14

Since news is a little slow this time of the year, we’ll start branching out to cover some topics that impact other service academies and our future conference when they pop up.

Junior defensive end Will Anthony was named the independent defensive player of the week.  Against South Alabama he recorded 12 tackles and 2.5 tackles for a loss.  His third quarter sack was the first solo sack of his career and ended a South Alabama drive.

There have been some peeks at what the theme for the Army Navy uniforms will be.  It appears that the First Navy Jack – perhaps better known as the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag to civilians – will heavily influence the design.  I’m just going to leave this here…be sure to wipe up your drool.

Boise State was, once upon a time, going to be a conference mate of Navy’s in the Big East.  But they headed back to the MWC for a sweetheart TV deal.  Two years in, some MWC athletic departments are realizing just how bad the deal to get them back was.  UNLV, for example, has gotten zero “bonus” money, while Boise has pulled down $3.7 million.  That gulf will only widen if Boise gets the access bowl this year, since the deal allows them to keep half the $6 million payout.  Air Force has fared only slightly better than UNLV.  Despite going 9-3 and beating both Boise and CSU, the Falcons got zero “bonus” this year, leaving their 2 year total at a paltry $300k.  That’s a hard pill to swallow for an athletic department that is reported to have an annual budget deficit of $26 million.

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Navy Notables – 12/01/14

Good morning!  Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving weekend.  We have a few things to catch up on thanks to the holiday, so read up!

No news was bigger than Navy locking up the Poinsettia Bowl bid with a “why must you do this to my heart after I just ate nothing but turkey and pie for the last 24 hours” win over South Alabama on Friday afternoon.  Geoffrey Whiteside fumbled with 4:30 to go, giving South Alabama a chance to tie it late with a touchdown and a 2 point conversion.  And they did.  Twice.  But both were called back for penalties.  Brendon Clements picked off the third try and Navy got the onsides kick to seal the deal.  It was another record setting day for Keenan Reynolds, as his 3 touchdowns put him 1st place all-time for rushing TD’s by a quarterback with 61 total, surpassing Colin Kaepernick and Eric Crouch who had shared the record at 59.  Reynolds has at least 14 games left in his career, putting the all-time rushing record of 77 (held by Wisconsin’s Montee Ball) clearly in his sights.

Navy will face a Mountain West team in the Poinsettia Bowl, which gets the 2nd pick after the Las Vegas Bowl.  We’ll do a post later this week on possible opponents, but in the interim, if you can’t go to the game, head on over to NavySports.com and donate tickets so a military member can go in your stead.

It was an up and down weekend for the Navy men’s basketball team.  On Wednesday evening, the Mids overcame a sluggish and error prone first half to beat Penn St.-Harrisburg 67-42 for its second win of the season.  Freshman Jace Hogan came off the bench and lead the team with 14 points in 17 minutes of action while forward Edward Alade came one rebound shy of a double-double as he added 11 points.  But Navy would fall to Saint Francis University 85-62 less than 72 hours later as the Red Flash seemingly couldn’t miss a shot.  Navy was actually 50% from the floor, but St. Francis U was a blistering 65.4%, including an unreal 70.4% in the first half.  Navy’s home to host Penn on Wednesday before heading south to play The Citadel on Saturday.

The women’s basketball team won a pair of games over the weekend while hosting the Navy Classic.  The ladies defeated UNC Greensboro 71-64 in a game that had quite the dichotomy of halves.  After an opening 20 minutes that saw the Mids go into the break trailing 23-21, the Navy offense exploded for 50 2nd half points (the most ever in a half for a Stefanie Pemper Navy squad) to grab the victory.  That game was followed by a 60-51 win over Grand Canyon on Saturday, the 3rd win in a row for the team and 4th in 5 games.  Freshman Taylor Dunham was named to the all-tournament team after putting up a combined 26 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds, and 4 steals.

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