A SALUTE TO INDEPENDENCE

That’s right, independence. Liberty. Self-determination. The animating contest of freedom. Founding principles of our nation? Or prescription for Navy football success?

Army, Navy, and Notre Dame are anomalies in the framework of college football, and for some reason it bugs the hell out of people. You can’t go to a blog, message board, or news site without some joker proposing his grand conference realignment plan. None of these brilliant arrangements include independent teams. No, people don’t want exceptions to conference rule. Everyone must be put in their place!

Screw that. Conferences are for schools that don’t kick enough ass to be able to make it on their own. Everyone would be independent if they could handle it, but they aren’t bathed in awesome like Navy is.

Why is being independent better for Navy?

Money. Navy is able to generate enough operating revenue from playing Notre Dame, the Army-Navy game, television contracts, bowl games, and one-off events like Maryland and Ohio State. They don’t have to split this income eight ways, either, like they do in communes conferences. Maybe they don’t get any money from the rest of the communal pot either, but they don’t need it. NAAA makes enough money to fund football and 29 other varsity sports.

Scheduling control. Football scheduling is hard; a lot harder than people realize. It’s basically football diplomacy. You have multiple parties looking to use other parties in order to achieve their own ends. The object of this diplomacy is to either convince teams to come play in your stadium, or convince them to pay you a lot of money to go play in theirs… All while making sure you win enough games to meet your postseason goals. Conferences are the peace treaties of the scheduling diplomacy world, with similar (in theory) schools coming together to guarantee a number of home games for each other every year. Navy, as an independent, has no such guarantee. There’s no doubt that the schedule-makers in Annapolis have to work a bit harder to fill 12 games every year, but Navy fans see the fruits of their efforts.

First, we get a manageable schedule. There are only two other programs in I-A that face the kind of constraints that Navy does; any alignment with any other group of schools puts Navy at a competitive disadvantage right off the bat. Being independent means that Navy has more control in crafting a schedule that has the right balance of competition to challenge the Mids, but not make their hopes of a bowl game unrealistic.

The other scheduling benefit that comes from being independent is variety. Who wants to play the same basic schedule every year? Since 2000, Navy has played at least one team from every conference, including independents. By the end of 2009, the Mids will have played in this decade:

Big 10: Northwestern, Ohio State

Pac-10: Stanford

Big 12: Texas Tech

ACC: Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, N.C. State, Duke, Maryland, Boston College

Big East: Rutgers, Pitt, UConn, Temple, Boston College

SEC: Vanderbilt

Conference USA: Tulane, Army, Rice, TCU, Tulsa, ECU, SMU

Sun Belt: Western Kentucky, North Texas

WAC: TCU, Rice, SMU, Louisiana Tech, Hawaii

Mountain West: Air Force, New Mexico, Colorado State, Utah

MAC: Northern Illinois, Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan, Toledo, Ball State, Temple, Kent State

Independents: Army, Notre Dame, UConn, Temple

I’m not going to go through ten years’ worth of 120 I-A schedules to verify this, but I doubt there are many other teams in the country, if any, that can make that claim. With the next decade including games with Syracuse, UNLV, San Jose State, Baylor, Troy, Ole Miss, and others, it’s a trend that is going to continue. Getting around the country like that is good for recruiting, good for the mission of the school, and good for entertainment. It’s also a lot harder to do without the schedule flexibility of independence.

Television. Next to Notre Dame, Navy might have the best television package in the country. All home games are on CBS College Sports for the next 10 years. CBS is also going to broadcast Army-Navy through at least 2018. CBS picks up the Notre Dame game every year it’s a Navy home game. Navy is a popular draw when they hit the road, too; every game was televised in 2008, with ESPN networks picking up three games (not including the EagleBank Bowl). How would conference membership make this any better? It would just make it worse.

Bowl Games. Most bowl games have some sort of conference affiliation. Once upon a time, that was a problem. Not anymore. After incredible fan turnout at the 2003 Houston Bowl and 2004 Emerald Bowl, bowl games have been looking for ways to take Navy. The Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte took advantage of a hiatus in their contract with the Big East to grab Navy in 2006. The Poinsettia and EagleBank Bowls were both created with Navy in mind, and both have invited Navy back in future years. The Texas Bowl will invite a bowl-eligible Navy team in 2009, and the Armed Forces Bowl is lined up for 2013. By understanding what bowl games want– fans and their money– Chet Gladchuck has carved out bowl security for years to come without any need for conference backing.

So tonight, when you pull out the Do-It-Yourself Revolution Kit you picked up at the fireworks stand next to the freeway, light a roman candle or two to celebrate Navy’s independence too. Hopefully nobody does anything to screw it up.

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30 Responses

  1. Of course, the point left unsaid in this really good article is that much of our ability to remain independent relies on continuing to be good. I shudder to think what might happen if we had a couple losing seasons in a row.

  2. I don’t know… Even Army got a TV contract in their doldrums. Times are better when the team is good, obviously, but I don’t think being in a conference helps us in the down years. I sure as hell don’t want to find out either way.

  3. I wouldn’t necessarily call what Army had a “TV contract.” Most of their games seemed to be on ESPN360.

    The biggest thing a conference can provide when things are down is revenue due to the sharing. But I’m with you – I don’t want to find out either.

  4. I guess your next problem to solve is Middle East Peace!

    BZ!

    Bird Dog ’12

  5. Most of them are on ESPN Classic. It isn’t a GOOD contract, but it’s a whole lot better than nothing. Army and Navy have an advantage over generic State U. in that even if we’re bad, we’re enough of a novelty that *someone* will want to watch. Army games might’ve been pretty bad the last few years, but I bet they still get better ratings on fall Saturdays than ESPN Classic’s usual fare.

  6. I would guess that the Army and Navy regular season games would have a higher rating than the dregs of conference play…certainly above the majority of non-BCS teams and probably a fre BCS schools

  7. Chet is the man. Unbelievable what he’s been able to do with hiring, scheduling, facilities, TV contracts, bowls, etc., etc., etc…

    I hope we are taking VERY good care of that guy. He’s surely taking great care of us.

  8. i didnt know they are scheduled to play ole miss. when does this happen? in oxford? being an hour away in memphis, i’d kill to see this.

  9. The date hasn’t been revealed. It was sort of an afterthought at the end of the press release announcing the extension with CBS CS.

    http://www.navysports.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/091808aab.html

    “During the length of the agreement, CBS College Sports Network will broadcast notable match-ups including games against Wake Forest; Air Force; East Carolina; Ohio State; Pittsburgh; Rutgers; Texas Christian University; Northwestern; Duke; Ole Miss and Syracuse.”

  10. having grown up a rebel fan and being a navy fan since 2002, i’m really looking forward to this game if in fact it does happen. this has to be navy’s number 1 reason for staying independent. i’ve grown up in SEC country. it’s great to watch florida-georgia, alabama-auburn, alabama-lsu, ole miss-lsu, ole miss-miss st, alabama-tenn, florida-tenn, but these games happen once a year. it’s nice to watch navy play ohio state, notre dame, hawaii, army, air force, and pitt among others during a 12 game season. then you throw in the bowl opponent. it makes for more excitement in my opinion.

  11. i also love the national exposure

  12. Point well taken. If, in addition to being a Navy fan, you are a generic college football fan, and one of those people that love watching games from all over the nation, you get to indulge both of your addictions at the same time each season, by virtue of Navy scheduling and independence. Looking forward to the HI game!

    Next up, Canadian schools?

    http://www.rauzulusstreet.com/football/college/vaniercup.htm

  13. The “Ole Miss” game has gone away.

    Bill

  14. Well, so much for that.

  15. Bummer.

  16. In as much as any game that far out is really ever “real” what was the source for the possible Ole Miss game being removed?

  17. A comment left by a credible person.

  18. I need a roster.

  19. that sucks. but, its ok.

  20. We still have Troy and South Alabama, bags.

  21. troy is always pretty good

  22. Why do I get the feeling that those who voted in the poll that they want to see Navy in the ACC or the Big East are ACC/Big East fans, rather than Navy fans.

  23. Re: ACC votes — when I voted 2 days ago it was 100% for independent

  24. ’85, that feeling is you having an astute intellect.

  25. i have to admit, if i had answered this question a year or 2 ago i was leaning towards a conference affiliation. i thought it could help with recruiting. but, i have since changed my mind. being in a conference would limit the exposure since they would have to play a number of set games in one area of the country. this could possibly limikt the exposure. so, i have changed my mind completely.

  26. Being Independent is GREAT overall.

    Chet Gladchuck is GREAT.

    Our coaches & programs are GREAT

    Our Navy athletes are GREAT.

    For an old bird-dog Navy athletics have been GREAT.

  27. I have been a keen Navy fan since plebe summer in 1944. At 83 I still have season tickets to all home games and the thrill is the same as when we marched on for the Army/Navy game December ’44 at the Memorial Stadium in Baltimore.
    I have spent 18 years as a Blue and Gold officer and I am glade to have been a Navy recruiter with Gar Bacon and Leo Latonic that only ended when both died within a week of each other. Go Navy1

  28. It’s always an honor when the original Birddogs pay a visit to the site.

  29. This was a well written observation and I agree completely. Being in a conference is too restrictive as well as requiring that the money be shared. We can thank our excellent AD, Chet Gladchuk for his expert negotiation of future schedules and lining up bowls into the forseeable future as long as we win a sufficient number of games. Even though the schedule is somewhat tougher, Coach Ken is keeping the well oiled machine put in place by Coach Johnson intact. No small part of our success is the cohesiveness of the coaching staff and Coach Ken and the AD get credit for that. Your point is well taken that showing our flag around the country helps with recruiting. We went to Texas and got creamed by Houston and TCU, but have made great inroads into the Texas football factory as the backbone of our team. We are looking forward to good things,

    Gary Ballard Class of 1960

  30. While the need to remain Independent has never been questioned, with the success of the back-to-back-to-back winning seasons the AD has been able to do some real magic. Being able to watch nearly every NAVY Football Game (in HD, no less!) has been priceless. For those of us here in the Northwest, it makes it possible to gather our Alumni buddies together on a weekly basis to cheer on our Mid’s, Not being able to get back to Annapolis on a regular basis means if we want to attend a game in person, we have to settle for the once in a decade game against a Pac-10 team, or, in this year’s case a game in Hawaii. Oh, darn…

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