In the dust-up over whether the Army-Navy Game should be moved to accommodate the College Football Playoff’s timetable for announcing access bowl bids, it appears that there might be some progress being made toward a common-sense solution:
Under discussion: If Navy is that highest-ranked team going into the Army game, a loss would drop it to the bowl inhabited by the No. 2 Group of Five team. The CFP Selection Committee would make that determination with its rankings.
“I know that there is a discussion about it,” Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk told CBSSports.com. “Call it a popular consideration.”
This is the same suggestion I made back in January, not that it was some stroke of genius on my part. It just seemed like a pretty simple accommodation.
Simplicity isn’t everyone’s goal here, though. The Mountain West has an interest in knocking the Army-Navy game down a peg, so commissioner Craig Thompson had to find someone in the media to get his message across. That message?
The simple fact is the stubbornness exhibited by those parties is bad for college football.
Bad for college football. The Army-Navy Game being played on the second Saturday of December is bad for college football.
That sounds like some weapons-grade hyperbole. There has to be some hard-hitting reasoning behind such a bold statement, right? Well…
“Let’s say everything is delayed a week,” Thompson said. “That gives a Mountain West team seven days, from Saturday to Saturday, to go to the Las Vegas Bowl. It’s hard enough now on Dec. 5 having barely a couple of full weeks to get ready for it. One week would be, c’mon.”
“I’m a full American,” Thompson said. “I’m all in favor of the Army-Navy game. I think it’s a tremendous athletic event, but it’s disruptive to 128-plus other FBS schools.”
That’s the only reason that was given. This is apparently what’s “bad for college football.”
It’s an utterly ridiculous claim. Playing Army-Navy after the CFP makes its selections isn’t “disruptive to 128-plus other FBS schools.” It might be disruptive to one: the second-ranked Group of Five champion, if that champion is from the Mountain West, and if that champion is close enough to Navy in the eyes of the CFP committee for the Army-Navy results to even matter. Nobody else would have reason to care.
If Thompson is concerned that his champion won’t have enough time to prepare for the Las Vegas Bowl, then it makes more sense to move that game. Between the Las Vegas Bowl and Army-Navy, which one has been played longer? Which one has the better attendance? Which one has more people coming in from out of town? Which one has the bigger television audience? Which one is the more valuable media property? Why move a fixture of college football’s regular season for the sake of a bowl game, when bowl game dates change every year? The value of the Las Vegas Bowl wouldn’t be any different if it was played on a later date, and it could have just as much time to promote itself as it does now.
(It should also be noted that Navy won the Poinsettia Bowl only 10 days after playing Army last year.)
It would be easier to move the Las Vegas Bowl if Thompson’s concern was truly rooted in preparation time for his champion, but it isn’t. Thompson sees this situation as an opportunity to weaken a rival conference, and to remove a thorn that has been in Air Force’s side since the school was created. To argue that this is out of some greater concern for college football would be humorous if it wasn’t so conniving.
You know what’s really bad for college football? That a system exists whereby the schools that have every financial and competitive advantage can quite literally write their own rules– rules that codify these advantages to ensure that they will be maintained forever. Among the schools left on the outside looking in, there is but one property with a financial heft comparable to those owned by the powerful. And who is looking to take that property away? Not the “Power 5” conferences. They couldn’t care less. No, this is a challenge from another “have not” with an “if we can’t have it, no one can” attitude. Thompson’s Mountain West spent most of its existence criticizing the BCS monopoly, but now it wants everyone to fall in line for the good of college football? Nothing disingenuous there!
The Army-Navy Game has been the cherry on top of college football’s regular season for as long as anyone can remember. Based on the game’s ratings, that’s exactly where people want it to be. That there is some hypothetical scenario that might inconvenience the Mountain West is not reason enough to move the game. Some might choose to label Army and Navy as “stubborn.” Maybe it’s true. But in a world where so much of the fun and tradition of college football is being killed off for the sake of the Power 5’s bottom line, thank goodness someone is willing to be.