Yesterday was the annual Army-Navy media luncheon, and things are already off to a… well, interesting start. The main party from West Point (team captains, head coach, and AD) didn’t make the trip after their flight was cancelled due to fog, and instead joined in via teleconference. Chet Gladchuk was not pleased. I’m sure that some people were taken aback by the bluntness of the Navy AD’s comments, and the “no excuses, nobody cares” line sort of rubbed me the wrong way, too. However, Gladchuk had every right to be upset, and had to say something.
First, you have to understand what the Army-Navy luncheon is. Calling it a press conference would be a bit of an understatement. This is more like a full media day, and the kickoff for a week of events leading up to the game. There are representatives from the city of Baltimore and the Ravens as hosts of the event. The title sponsor of the game, USAA, is also represented. Local and national media are in attendance. This isn’t a few guys at a table with microphones in their faces. It’s a big deal, and Army’s absence put Chet in an awkward position.
The Army-Navy game is a business partnership. Cities and companies like USAA invest in the Army-Navy game because they believe in the Army-Navy product and trust that both Army and Navy will do everything they can to deliver a return on that investment. With Army not showing up, it left Navy holding the bag in a room full of people who have these expectations. If your business partner didn’t show up for something like this, wouldn’t you be upset too? Gladchuk explained this after the luncheon:
“I don’t know what their issues are. I just know that the City of Baltimore deserves – with the energy and the commitment they’ve made to this game – they deserve everything that we can give them,” he said. “ … And I’m disappointed that Army wasn’t able to be here.”
Gladhuk said talk to Army about the reasons.
“But in the final analysis, it’s OUR package,” he said. “It’s not their package. It’s not my package. It’s our package. It’s the academies. … What we talk about is we deliver on every front, okay, and we didn’t deliver today.”
Gladchuk was upset because he knows his product, and he knows what the Army-Navy partnership is expected to deliver. He was the one left apologizing to stakeholders at the podium because that partnership didn’t come through that day. You’d be upset too.
Army’s misstep isn’t the end of the world, but it shouldn’t be dismissed as no big deal, either. The Army-Navy Game is everything to these two programs, now more than ever. While the sports media is busy obsessing over the playoff committee and Jameis Winston and coach searches, there was still a room full of media members who carved out time to give Army and Navy their undivided attention. We are in an era where the have vs. have-not split makes that kind of exposure nearly impossible for schools like ours. This is our Super Bowl, and everything about this game has to be a top priority. I understand the inconvenience of the weather, but if your flight is cancelled then you drive or take a train. Maybe you get to Baltimore late, but your efforts will demonstrate to everyone in attendance how important this game is, which is vital. If we don’t make this game a top priority, nobody else will, either.