The Army-Navy Game has been on national broadcast television every year for more than hallf a century. That status won’t change for at least another decade, as it was announced today that CBS has extended its contract to televise the game through 2018. That’s not the only newsworthy bit from the announcement, though; as part of the deal, the game will move from the first weekend in December to the second, beginning next year.
I have mixed feelings about the move. This pushes Army-Navy right up against final exams, which sucks eggs through cocktail straws. It also makes bowl games a little complicated. Both the Poinsettia and Eaglebank Bowls are among the first, if not THE first, games of the bowl season. With Navy looking to be a regular in these games, that would mean they could have as little as seven or eight days to play Army, practice, and fly out to San Diego. It will make preparation difficult, especially when the other team wil likely have the full slate of available practices to prepare.
But the reality is that this move is probably necessary. The Army-Navy game and its television contract are the #1 source of revenue for both the West Point and Naval Academy athletic departments. With the advent of conference championship games being played on the same weekend, Army-Navy’s ratings have declined, making it less valuable to broadcasters. The best way to retain the value of the contract and restore the ratings to their former high levels– other than making both teams national championship contenders– would be to make Army-Navy the only game in town again. Otherwise, it wouldn’t make business sense for CBS or other suitors for the game’s broadcast rights to spend the kind of money that USNA and West Point need.
So the move makes sense, but there are still issues to address. Exams and bowl games, of course, but there’s also the issue of what to do with the extra weekend in the schedule. It’s hard to imagine that the team would go three weeks between Army and the previous game on the schedule. Will other games be scheduled for the first weekend of December, leaving only one week to prepare for Army instead of the usual two? Or will Navy start playing games on Thanksgiving weekend now? And does the new contract include Army-Navy basketball like the old one? Inquiring minds want to know.