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
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.