It was going to take a miracle to avoid a reatch with Wake Forest in the EagleBank Bowl. Unfortunately, I think Navy football spent its miracle budget for the year on the Temple game. What we all hoped to avoid has become official: Navy will be taking on Wake Forest on December 20th at RFK Stadium. Yeah, it sucks, especially for the Mids. It’s lousy for Wake Forest too, but at least for them it’s a shot at redemption. Navy, on the other hand, is forced to prove themselves on a test they’ve already passed. College football just shouldn’t have rematches. Half the fun of bowl games is playing someone you otherwise wouldn’t see, something we’ve been fortunate enough to have the last 5 years.
Wait… 5 years? Man, that’s crazy, especially for those of you who have been Navy fans for a while. Six straight bowl games. When you were sitting & watching Georgia Tech hang 70 on us in 2001, could you have possibly imagined that such a string of success would be right around the corner? Hell no. Not at Navy, where hard luck was a way of life. But with the right coach and the right players, a phenomenon was born.
Actually, that’s only part of the story. Right coach and right players, but also the right fans. There’s a lot of message board bravado about what “we” need to focus on if “we” need to win, as if the poster was part of the team. It’s a little ridiculous… Except when it comes to bowl games. Bowl games are the one area where fans can have a very tangible impact on the fate of the football team. Chet promised the Houston Bowl that Navy fans would deliver when he campaigned for the Mids to get the game’s at-large berth in 2003. And we did, 20,000 strong. Each year, Chet makes the same assurances to bowl committees; and each year, Navy fans back up his words. When Chet goes to the bargaining table looking for a postseason home for the team, his best leverage is us. That’s why 6 wins gave Navy a spot in Washington this year, Houston next year, and San Diego the year after that.
Which brings me to my greatest concern about playing a rematch with Wake Forest. Hopefully, ticket sales won’t suffer for it. Chet set his target at 30K tickets, which is ambitious even for a game played in our own backyard. But why not set the bar that high? It’s basically a Navy home game, and we have no trouble bringing 30K to Annapolis, right? Well, we’ll see. Hopefully people will get past their disappointment with the rematch and realize that no matter who we’re playing, you’ll have one more tailgate, one more reunion with friends, and one more chance to see Navy football before the long, long offseason. For those of us that don’t live in the area anymore, this game is a chance to get back to Annapolis, too. For me, I’m excited to see Kaipo one last time after he missed so much of this year. I’m optimistic; I didn’t buy my tickets until yesterday, and my seats are terrible. So they must be selling pretty well, right??
Anyway, what’s done is done. I’m sure most of you are miffed at how we ended up with Wake Forest, but really, it was kind of inevitable. Not that you won’t look for someone to blame in all this:
It looked like N.C. State was a possibility at first. It would’ve been nice to get to play Tom O’Brien and the Wolfpack. But N.C. State only finished 6-6, while nine other ACC teams finished 7-5 or better. NCAA rules dictate that a conference must place winning teams in its affiliated bowl games before any 6-6 teams would be eligible. Ironically, that rule exists because of a stunt pulled by the ACC in 2002 to put 6-6 Wake Forest in the Seattle Bowl. It sucks now, but it’s designed to help teams like Navy by ensuring that at-large bids are available for us should the need arise.
The ACC could have forced the Emerald Bowl or the Humanitarian Bowl to take Wake, right? I don’t know, maybe. But keeping your bowl partners from selecting the teams they want is a great way to end the business relationship between the conference and the bowl games.
Maybe Maryland’s exam excuse was a sham, and they just didn’t want to play Navy. Or maybe it was legitimate. Either way, it doesn’t matter. They weren’t going to fall to the EagleBank Bowl in the first place if the Humanitarian Bowl wanted to pick them ahead of Wake Forest (which they did).
The EagleBank Bowl Committee
So why didn’t the bowl committee try to work an exchange with another bowl game and another conference? Well, who says they didn’t? But you have to find a partner willing to deal. Those other bowl games don’t want Wake Forest any more than the 8 ACC bowls that passed on selecting the Demon Deacons when they had the chance. Besides, in this economy, local bowl games are a plus. I doubt the Wake administration wants to go somewhere else, even if their message board fans would disagree.
Anyway, I’m going. I want to see one more game at RFK. I want to see some friends, hit up the tailgate, and generally have a good time. That stuff isn’t dependent on who we play. Hope to see you there.