Ohio State is going to happen.

http://navysports.cstv.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/042308aaa.html

Neither do I.Well, it’s official. Navy is going to open up the 2009 season against the Buckeyes in Columbus, with a return trip coming in 2014 to either NMCMS (probably unlikely) or a higher capacity venue in the area (pray for Baltimore instead of FedEx). For Ohio State, a game against Navy is a tune-up against a spread option team before they play their season finale against Michigan. For Navy, one can only assume that the appeal of this game comes from tapping into the gate receipts of a 102,000-seat stadium. To my wife’s chagrin, the game replaces a previously scheduled contest at Hawaii that will likely be pushed out away from her birthday to a later date, possibly even that season. I suppose that the flight to Honolulu is now paid for:

Gladchuk declined to discuss financial terms, but admitted this would be the most lucrative home-and-home contract in the history of Navy football. Sources said the deal has the potential to earn the Naval Academy as much as $2 million for each game.

I don’t have a problem with playing Ohio State if it’s at the right time. The problem is that as the schedule stands right now, 2009 is not the right time. Let’s take a look:

Sept. 5 . . . at Ohio State
Sept. 19. . .  at Pittsburgh
Sept. 26 . . . Wake Forest
Oct. 3 . . . Air Force
Oct. 10 . . . at Rutgers
Oct. 17 . . . at SMU
Oct. 24 . . . Bowling Green (Homecoming)
Oct. 31 . . . Georgia Southern
Nov. 7 . . . at Notre Dame
Nov. 14 . . . Delaware
Nov. 21 . . . at Temple Hawaii
Dec. 5 . . . Army (Philadelphia)

Four of our first six games are on the road, and they’re at Ohio State, Pitt, Rutgers, and a revamped SMU. Are you kidding me? What happened to scheduling to give the team a chance to win? Who knows what kind of shape Air Force will be in by then, but the other home game wedged into that road gauntlet is against Wake Forest! It wouldn’t be a shock to anyone if Navy came out of the first half of the season at 1-5. The second half of the season could get dicey too, with Notre Dame, an improving Temple team, and possibly Hawaii.

I have a hard time believing that the Ohio State game would be happening if Paul Johnson was still the head coach. PJ was clear about how the 2002 schedule– which included NC State, Northwestern, Boston College, and Wake Forest in addition to the annual reach game against Notre Dame– set his first Navy team up for failure. The lesson learned was a scheduling philosophy that called for balance, as described by Chet here in a response to a question about scheduling Nebraska:

Being a Division IA football program, there’s always the possibility that we could play anyone. Whether scheduled during the regular season or in a bowl game. As it stands today, we do not have Nebraska on the schedule. My most important objective is to make sure the coach and the team have every opportunity to earn a successful season. Who we schedule is actually a science that, to date, has served us well. When you take a look at some of the programs we have down the road, including Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Wake Forest, Connecticut, East Carolina, and of course Army, Air Force and Notre Dame, I am very careful to ensure that there’s adequate balance throughout the season. We don’t want to put ourselves in a situation that doesn’t provide us with a legitimate shot at post-season consideration. This is one of the key reasons why we remain comfortably as an Independent. Remember, television, tickets, corporate support, alumni giving, facility construction, and other important advancements continue to flourish by virtue of the fact that we’re winning football games, and a balanced schedule is a big part of it.

Wise words from the Navy AD. While everyone has fun with the glitz and hype that comes from playing big names, when it’s all said and done, it’s winning, not hype, that people really want. There’s a group in any fanbase that thinks their team should schedule LSU, the Kansas City Chiefs, a team of mini-Ditkas, and the Nothing every year, but for the most part I think Navy fans understand that as a service* academy, we have to be a little more realistic. Does that mean never scheduling the Ohio States of the world? No, but it might be better off to do it in years where the schedule wasn’t already shaping up to be brutal.

Navy fans like to talk about 4-4-4 scheduling as a way to achieve the balance that Chet describes– 4 games where you’ll be the underdog, 4 games where you’ll be favored, and 4 games where the matchup is about even. While the twists and turns of any given season might alter Navy’s standing relative to their opponents, when everything averages out, those last two categories are pretty hard to come by. Think about it. Who do you think will win more head-to-head recruiting battles between Navy and Bowling Green? How big is Temple’s recruiting pool compared to Navy? Will Navy ever create a sports management major to lighten athletes’ loads like SMU? Of course not (but maybe Army will). There isn’t a team on the schedule outside of the other service academies that would trade their roster for Navy’s. In reality, “balance” is pretty much impossible to achieve. That means that wins over Delaware, Bowling Green, and co. should not be taken for granted. Winning at a service* academy is hard to do. It would be very easy for Navy to bite off more than it can chew, and without a big adjustment in 2009, that would seem to be exactly what has happened. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more changes to the schedule in an attempt to lighten the load. I sure hope it happens.

When I was a mid, West Virginia came to Annapolis, led by Amos Zereoue. That game was a really big deal in Bancroft Hall, and there was a huge buzz about it out in town. We got stomped, but the atmosphere was fun. I can understand the appeal of wanting to schedule a game like that. But when the game is over, there’s still a season to be played and goals to be met. As things stand right now, it’s going to be tough to meet those goals in 2009. Playing Ohio State will be fun. Here’s hoping that the schedule gets a bit of an overhaul to accomodate them.  

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12 Responses

  1. This is the second post where you’ve suggested that no other D1 team (except Army) would trade their roster for Navy’s and for that reason I feel compelled to respond.

    1) Don’t underestimate the lure of the Naval Academy and Navy Football. My son turned down scholarship offers from three other D1 schools for a chance to run out of the tunnel at places like Notre Dame and in the annual Army/Navy game. He was excited when I told him about Ohio State.

    2) The gap between Major, Mid Major and Div 1AA teams is narrowing. While the number of college football teams has remained fairly constant, the number of high school football teams has grown. An ever increasing number of recruits competing for D1 roster spots has created a trickle down effect making it possible for a team like Appalachian State to beat a team like Michigan for example.

    3) Success breeds success. Navy is getting better players and those players want better competition and a shot at a top 20 ranking (which can only be acheived by playing other ranked opponents).

    4) Navy already makes concessions for its football players. Maybe they don’t have a sports management major, but they do have tutors who travel with the team and recruited athletes have an admissions advantage at USNA the same as their counterparts at other D1 schools.

    My feeling is that I never want to see the day where athletics becomes an afterthought at a place like Navy as has happened with the Ivy League Schools. On our recruiting visit last January Coach KN told my son “we’ll play anybody.” Hat’s off to our AD for raising the bar.

  2. 1) While there might be some individuals who had other opportunities, the fact of the matter is that the Naval Academy’s recruiting pool is much, much smaller than anyone they play on their schedule, and the overall talent reflects that. A team like Duke is considered a laughingstock , but Paul Johnson never won a head-to-head recruiting battle with them. We make it work with excellent coaches and not doing anything dumb, like opening our schedule with four BCS teams in our first 5 games.

    2) For every App State that beats a Michigan, there are a dozen 55-0 blowouts, like when Michigan plays Eastern Michigan. If we were talking about one game, fine, play Ohio State. But I’m talking about playing Ohio State in the context of an already grueling schedule. If you think that App State has any prayer against the slate we’re facing to start the year in ’09, well, we’re going to disagree, to put it mildly. I am hoping that playing Ohio State comes with an effort to lighten the load a bit.

    3) Navy is getting better players, and we’re still losing to Delaware. It’s important not to forget who we are, and to schedule accordingly. Again, I don’t have a problem with playing Ohio State. I have a problem with playing Ohio State when we’re already playing Pitt, Wake Forest, and Rutgers to start the season. If we can get out of that schedule unscathed, we’d be top 20 material even without playing Ohio State.

    4) Tutors aren’t concessions. Quite the opposite– they’re necessary because players are expected to handle the same academic load even with the rigors of being a travelling Division I athlete. And while it’s true that there are certain admissions advantages, getting a few blue chips in front of the admissions board is a far cry from the examples I listed. The Naval Academy is still a whole other world on the I-A landscape.

    Smart scheduling doesn’t mean that athletics are an afterthought. It means you want to win.

  3. Sorry, but the allure of having an excuse to get tickets at the Oval has overwhelmed me. As a college football fan I love this, and as selfish as this sounds, just seeing Navy being able to compete for a quarter with the Buckeyes (which I think is possible) would be worth it for me.

    We’ve seen enough parity and movement in the ranks to know that some of those teams in the ’09 schedule will be up and some will be down. I think it’s a little fatalistic to say all those teams are definitely getting better by ’09. Don’t get me wrong, the schedule is certainly a challenge, but haven’t you at least wondered how the team would fare? Maybe that’s a dumb question, and I know you have history on your side, but I guess I just want to know why a home and away series with Ohio State is going to be the downfall of the program. Like we always say, we can lose to ANYONE on the schedule, so is there that much of a difference between a Hawaii and Ohio State? Actually don’t answer that, but I hope you can at least understand where I’m coming from.

    I don’t think we should freak out about playing a tough schedule in any given year. I just don’t want to see a habit made of it, and I think Chet’s more than capable of walking the line when it comes to scheduling.

  4. Again, playing Ohio State is fine. It’s playing them in 2009 that I have a problem with. Sure, nobody knows who’s going to be good in two years, but if your money was on the line would you bet on Bowling Green or Pittsburgh? You can still set up a schedule and have a general idea of what we’re getting into.

    And no, as I was watching Delaware and North Texas put up a combined 121 points against us last year, I really wasn’t interested in seeing how we’d stack up with Ohio State. I’d be willing to bet that if we’re 4-8 and sitting at home over Christmas & New Year’s, nobody else will be as interested as they thought they were, either.

  5. As a fairly new Navy fan (since ’04) and a Buckeye I have to say that I’m very excited to see these two teams playing each other.
    But like I said I am a Navy fan first and formost, and I just cannot imagine why in the world they would schedule OSU FIRST on the schedule.
    God bless Navy, they’ve given some bigger colleges a run for their money (ie: Boston College, ND) but to start the season off playing one of the best teams in the country (not to mention the next couple games after that) in my oppinion isn’t exactly good for morale…for players or fans.

  6. new navy mom … You are way out in “left field” and/or misinformed wrt your statement about the “concessions” afforded the Football players @ USNA. It differs night & day from what is experienced at the vast majority of other schools. Eating at T-tables & getting priority in scheduling classes doesn’t come close to making up for their physically/emotionally (and even mentally) exhausting daily schedules during the season.
    Please ask your son (who I assume still is on the varsity football team???) about the demands of practice & how “easy” it is to hit the books every night “fresh & well rested”. Also, Tutoring isn’t the the panacea that you paint it out to be —> First of all EVERY midshipman @ the Academy is afforded EI (extra instruction) by the instructors if they want, … and can build it into their daily schedules … and these tutors for the athletic teams normally are just for the “core” courses, and rarely cover the bases for some of the more esoteric/difficult courses required for some of the harder majors (ie … like “advanced matrix theory” for math majors as an example) … Plus are only available for set time periods, … not always aligned for every player’s schedule on a day to day basis. Likewise, … the ability to correctly/efficiently use a tutor (by a student) is a science that not all students can successfully master. –> They don’t work for every student … but @ USNA, there is no other fallback plan afforded the student-athletes.
    My son has struggled academically with a relatively hard major, while balancing all the midshipman requirements, and dedicating himself to be part of Navy football program for three years now. I have witnessed the physical/mentally exhausting toll this daily committment demands, … and have realized the present day, and future career” sacrifices he has chosen to represent the Academy on the gridiron each fall season. Because of his grades, … his desired Navy career choice is highly unlikely now, … and he was a straight “A” H.S. student who took all the advanced courses.. These “perks/concessions” that you allude to don’t even come close to matching up to the time/effort/sacrifices expended by the football players, … as compared to the already rigid lifestyle of the average USNA midshipman.

  7. in response to football dad dan’s question

    My son is an incoming freshman. He is part of the 2008 recruiting class that Navy just signed. He is a direct entry admit.

  8. Well then “BZ” & congratulations to him!!! –> It’s an honor & a tremendous opportunity.

    My son was a direct entry admit as well, … and I cannot state enough how very proud we are of him.

    GO NAVY … BEAT ARMY!!!

  9. http://starbulletin.com/breaking/breaking.php?id=7009

  10. Additional schedule updates from the West Coast. Navy will be playing San Jose State from 2011-2014 in a series of Away-Home-Away-Home games. Good news for us SF Bay Area fans as we loved having Navy out here to open Stanfords new stadium a couple of years ago:

    http://blogs.mercurynews.com/collegesports/2008/04/23/sjsu-football-a-look-at-future-schedules-there-are-some-big-name-opponents/

  11. […] schedule” thing, and my initial response to scheduling Ohio State was, shall we say, tepid. Scheduling SEC teams, even of the middle-of-the-pack variety, doesn’t seem like the greatest […]

  12. […] why I’ve been looking to this game since it was announced. I haven’t exactly been the biggest supporter of these “money” games against BCS titans, but I’ve always felt differently about […]

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