The 10 Most Notable Games from Navy-American Athletic Conference History: #5

2008: Navy 33, Temple 27

The history of Navy’s football program over the last 60+ years has been one of extremes. When things have been good, they’ve been really good. The ’50s and ’60s were glory days by any definition, with the Mids producing multiple top-20 finishes, Heisman winners, and playing for a national championship. The George Welsh years ended with four consecutive winning seasons (five if you include Gary Tranquill’s first season), three bowl berths, nationally ranked defenses, and the occasional appearance in top-25 polls. Paul Johnson led the Mids to five straight winning seasons that each ended with a bowl berth, beat Notre Dame, finished ranked #24 in 2004, and never lost to Army.

Between those happier days were absolute deserts of futility. Navy played for the national championship in 1963, but only had two winning records over the next 14 years. Things were even worse after George Welsh left for Virginia, as the Mids could manage only three winning records from 1982-2002. They had twice as many seasons with two wins or less over the same period. Things got so bad that in 1994, Sports Illustrated suggested that Navy drop to Division I-AA. People weren’t exactly lining up to write dissenting opinions.

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The 10 Most Notable Games From Navy-American Athletic Conference History: 6-10

The last decade of college football was defined by conference realignment. The ACC lured Miami and Virginia Tech away from the Big East in 2004 in the first moves that would eventually change the face of college athletics as we knew it. BCS conferences added schools that they hoped would drive up the value of television contracts coming up for renegotiation. Conferences had to attract more viewers if they wanted to generate more money from bidding networks.

For some, that meant expanding into areas beyond their traditional regions. For others, it meant adding whoever they could just to survive. The result in both cases has been a lot of seemingly bizarre partnerships. Rutgers shares the same conference home as Nebraska. West Virginia vs. Texas Tech is now an annual contest. The Catholics are going in halvsies with the Convicts. It’s a lot to get used to.

Fortunately, that’s not the case for the Naval Academy. While some American Athletic Conference members will be making their first appearances on a Navy schedule, others have been playing the Mids for years. Among FBS conferences, only ACC and Big Ten members have played more games against Navy than the schools in the American. The Mids have faced their new conference-mates 62 times, beginning in 1930 with SMU’s trip to Baltimore. That’s a wide spectrum of Navy history, and it includes some significant moments. Here’s a look back at the 10 that I think are the most noteworthy.

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Navy-Notre Dame Headed to San Diego In 2018

NAVYSPORTS.COM – The Official Web Site of Naval Academy Varsity Athletics – Navy-Notre Dame Football Game To Be Played In San Diego In 2018.

Navy has a long football history with San Diego. The Mids won the first Holiday Bowl in 1978 and played at San Diego State in 1994 and 1997. The large naval presence in the city makes it a home away from home for the Mids, so much so that when the San Diego Bowl Game Association created the Poinsettia Bowl in 2005, they did so with Navy in mind.

That thinking paid off. Navy has appeared in the Poinsettia Bowl more than any other team, and attendance has been much higher in those games. The average attendance for Poinsettia Bowls without Navy is 30,076. The average with Navy is 39,272, including the three highest-attended games.

Unfortunately for the bowl committee, Navy’s membership in the American means that they will no longer be playing in the Poinsettia Bowl; eligible Navy teams will instead be selected by one of the conference’s contracted bowls. By bidding on the Navy-Notre Dame game, the SDBGA is able to maintain their relationship with the Naval Academy, with the added bonus of tapping into Notre Dame’s traveling roadshow (which incidentally has never been to San Diego). 

We’ve known of San Diego’s interest in this game for a few months now, but so far there hasn’t been any news about the 2020 game. Baltimore has traditionally hosted most of Navy’s higher-profile games, but could that be changing? As an independent, Navy had a history of playing games around the country. Now that they are a member of the American, their schedules are going to consist of 8 conference games plus Army, Notre Dame, and Air Force every year. Maybe playing Notre Dame in more non-traditional locations is a way to keep that coast-to-coast element to Navy’s schedules.

We’ll find out when the 2020 game is announced. In the meantime, as a San Diego native living in Jacksonville, the last two weeks have been pretty good to me.

Can’t Have it Both Ways

Troy Calhoun really doesn’t want to run an option offense. He said as much when he was hired, claiming that modern defenses were too fast to for his team to rely on an offense that, in his opinion, spends too much time in the backfield. Instead, he wanted a “balanced” offense, mixing in more passing with a tailback that would get 20-25 carries per game. Continue reading

What Happened to Stadium Expansion?

Navy accepted the Big East’s invitation to join the conference as a football-only member 3 years ago, but didn’t officially become a member of the now-American until this month. That’s a long time compared to other schools joining new leagues. Instead of making it easier to join a new conference, being independent actually made things more difficult. Navy couldn’t just trade one conference schedule for another. Without those 8 fixtures every year, Navy had a lot of scheduled games that either needed to be played, bought out, or otherwise dealt with. They couldn’t have joined right away even if they wanted to.

While it might have been fun for the Mids to have been part of a BCS conference in that system’s last hurrah, the 3-year wait was probably better for Navy in the long run. Rather than jump into the league and work things out as they go, the program had the opportunity to evaluate itself relative to their new peers and target areas where improvement were needed. A good example of this is how Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium was brought up to Big East/American standards.

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Navy-Notre Dame Coming to Jacksonville?

The Gator Bowl and Jacksonville have been trying to bring a Navy game to town for years. In 2005 they tried to put a game together with Florida State, and when that didn’t work out, they set their sights on Navy-Notre Dame. It appears that the latter is finally going to happen, with a press conference reportedly scheduled for Wednesday. If so, it’s a big win for Jacksonville. When the Jaguars were trying to convince the Jacksonville city council to approve a renovation of EverBank Field, college football was a big part of the sales pitch. A more modern stadium, it was argued, would allow Jacksonville to bid for the national championship game, help return the profile of the Gator Bowl to its historical levels, and would help to attract more neutral-site regular season games. On that last point, Navy-Notre Dame was the one game specifically mentioned in the presentation. It took a couple of years to finalize, but it appears that it’s finally going to happen.

Paul Johnson made a couple of trips to Jacksonville when he was Navy’s head coach, doing the usual alumni wine-and-cheese tour as well as talking to the Jacksonville Quarterback Club. In each visit, he stressed the importance of scheduling games in Florida. Maybe that was just a way to throw a bone to the locals, but I don’t think so. One of the biggest reasons why Navy wanted to be placed in the American’s West division was to maintain a presence in Texas for recruiting. The Mids have tried to schedule a game or two with a Texas or Oklahoma team almost every year, and Texas players have been the cornerstone of Navy rosters for years. Navy recruits Florida just as hard, but it’s a tougher sell when recruits aren’t as familiar with your program. The Mids have played in Florida only 3 times in the last 40 years, with the most recent game being the 2000 Notre Dame game at the Citrus Bowl. That will quickly change thanks to Navy’s membership in the American, with future schedules now including regular games against USF and UCF. Playing Notre Dame in Jacksonville will only serve to make Navy’s Florida presence even better. The Mids will play games in Florida 4 times in the next 4 years, not including the potential of playing in one of the American’s several Florida bowl games.

Jacksonville isn’t as big as San Diego, but it takes just as much pride in being a Navy town. The large Navy presence combined with Notre Dame’s ability to draw anywhere should make this game a success. Most importantly, I live in Jacksonville, so neener neener I win.

It’s Official

American colleges and universities have been engaging in athletic competitions against each other since at least 1852, when crews from Harvard and Yale met on Lake Winnepesaukee for the first intercollegiate regatta. College athletics wasn’t an official endeavor in the beginning, with most contests consisting of one school’s student-run club issuing a challenge to another school’s student-run club. The result more often than not was an event that resembled a modern Navy-St. John’s croquet match: more of a social affair than a competitive one.

Not surprisingly, that didn’t last very long. As the races became more hotly contested, they started drawing more and more media attention. What was treated as a novelty by newspapers and magazines in 1852 became headline-worthy news by the 1870s. Competition began to extend beyond rowing to include football, track and field, and baseball. As Guy Lewis once noted in American Quarterly, media coverage of intercollegiate athletics “contributed to the destruction of the isolated academic world and helped make the nation more conscious of its colleges.”

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