ANDY GOES TO THE NAVY VS HOLY CROSS LACROSSE GAME

Global warming may or may not exist, but I am sure of one thing – whatever the hell is going on right now is making some awesome early-March weather happen in Annapolis. I went to Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium today to watch the Mids take on the Crusaders of Holy Cross on the latest upper-60’s, sunny, and breezy day. Despite Spring Break flinging the Brigade to the far corners of wherever the drinking age is under 21, there were still what looked to be a couple thousand fans filling the west stands to see the Midshipmen win 13-7.

Continue reading “ANDY GOES TO THE NAVY VS HOLY CROSS LACROSSE GAME”

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CATCHING UP

Thanks to my terrible work ethic, the M.O. for this blog over the last year or so has been for me to comment on things about a month after everyone stops caring (Man, the Casey Anthony verdict is making my Twitter timeline unreadable! And can you believe the U.S. women lost to Sweden?). But I can’t move on to other things without mentioning a few items of varying levels of interest, so let’s do that first.

LACROSSE: Obviously, item #1 on the docket is the hiring of Rick Sowell as the new lacrosse coach. Sowell comes to Navy by way of Stony Brook, where he went 47-26 over five seasons. The Seawolves won the America East regular season the last two seasons, and won the conference tournament in 2010. Stony Brook was a respectable America East program when Sowell took over, but the 2010 season was the best in the program’s short history, earning the #8 seed in the tournament and advancing to the quarterfinals before dropping a 10-9 decision to top-seeded Virginia. Stony Brook again advanced to the America East finals in 2011 before losing a heartbreaker to Hartford in the final seconds (or second, actually).

I like the hire. If Richie Meade had retired on his own terms instead of being forced to resign, I think most people would share my optimism. Unfortunately, the nature of Meade’s dismissal means that some people aren’t going to give any new coach a chance.  That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some legitimate questions to be asked, though. Is Sowell the kind of coach that the old-timers had in mind as they spent the last 5 years calling for Meade’s dismissal? He certainly isn’t as accomplished as Meade. He could be when all is said and done, but were the ’60s laxers expecting more of a sure thing? We’ll find out the answer when we see how long it takes for them to start complaining again. And make no mistake, they will; the kind of success that they want isn’t sustainable at many schools, let alone a service academy. Keep in mind that these guys were complaining before the struggles of the last two seasons. I’ll be happy if Sowell matches Meade’s record at Navy.

Some might question whether or not he can, but the basis for some of the criticism of the hire is unfair, in my opinion. While his record at Stony Brook was better, Sowell’s overall record is just a hair over .500 at 86-81. Not all .500 records are the same, though. Sowell took on some thankless jobs. Before taking the helm at Stony Brook, Sowell started the St. John’s program from scratch. Before that, he took over a Dartmouth program that had two winning seasons in the 16 years that preceded him. By the time he left the Big Green, he had won the Ivy League and had notched the program’s first win at Princeton since 1956. Seriously, he won the Ivy League at Dartmouth. I don’t think that can be said enough. They’ve had a steady downhill trend ever since he left. So yes, he’s about .500, but with some of the challenges he took on, that’s an accomplishment.

Everyone knows what I thought about Coach Meade’s dismissal, but none of that matters anymore. The program marches on– the Mids themselves will march on– and I’m excited to see where Coach Sowell can take them. Welcome aboard.

#@$%ING CBS: John Feinstein’s 14 years in the Navy football radio booth have come to an end. After having pitched the idea of an Army-Navy documentary for a while now, he was understandably upset when CBS decided to move forward with a documentary of their own. He says that he isn’t throwing a fit, but to watch CBS working on this documentary in front of him all year would be too much to take.

It’s a little bit like dating a girl for 10 years, getting dumped and then being invited to her wedding. I just don’t want to watch it.

It certainly does sound like a hissy fit, but I’m more than willing to give Feinstein the benefit of the doubt. One, because everyone I’ve ever talked to that knows Feinstein has nothing but nice things to say about him; and two, because I have no idea how much of a slap in the face this is professionally and can’t possibly relate to any of it. I might be a little disappointed in his decision since NAAA stood by John after he dropped an F-bomb on the air, but only a little; it wasn’t that big of a deal.

In fact, I’m actually sort of glad to see him go. I’ve never liked him on the radio. His ability to tell a story makes him a great writer (and probably would have made him a good documentarian for that matter), but that doesn’t translate much to an in-the-booth game broadcast. Yes, he’s a national media voice in a time when there aren’t many others who give a rat’s ass about the Naval Academy. On the other hand, I disagree with just about everything that comes out of his mouth on the air. I don’t know if losing Feinstein will lead to decreased interest in Navy radio broadcasts, but I do know that I’ll do less in-game yelling at people who can’t hear me, so my blood pressure likes the news.

I’m sure Feinstein will be back when he realizes how much he misses the postgame Juicy Juice benders with Socci.

THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THAT STORY: Showtime is going to air a two-hour documentary on Army-Navy!

SPEAKING OF CBS: They’ll be showing the Air Force game. That’s CBS as in CBS, not the CBS Sports Network as usual. That’s a big deal, but the cherry on top is that the game is now going to be played at noon. TAILGATERS REJOICE. Seriously though, noon game on CBS? The decision to partner with CSTV instead of ESPN looks better every year. Unless the game is preempted by some garbage ACC game locally, in which case I will embark on a murderous rampage (just kidding) (or am I) (I am) (maybe).

OTHER PEOPLE’S PROBLEMS: Georgia Tech has become the latest program to be flattened by the NCAA regulatory bulldozer. OK, “flattened” might not be the best way to describe it, but the punishment includes probation, a $100K fine, and forfeiture of all 2009 wins after November 24 (including the ACC championship). The From The Rumble Seat reaction ranges from acceptance to WTF as details of the story became public. Those details can be found here.

If the punishment seems excessive, it is. Remember, though, that Georgia Tech was already on probation when all this was happening, so any violations that happen during the probationary period are going to deliver an extra dose of boomshakalaka. Still, I don’t know if forfeiting Tech’s ACC championship makes sense. The school plans to appeal, and while it will probably be denied like most appeals are in the new NCAA process, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have a point. The NCAA forces a forfeiture of wins when it finds that ineligible players were used in these contests. While they did find that one of the two investigated players received “preferential treatment” by being given $312 worth of clothes from his cousin’s roommate, the NCAA did not say that either player was ineligible in its report. If either player was in fact ineligible, the NCAA should have made that clear. If they did not determine that the players were ineligible, then Tech shouldn’t have to forfeit any wins. As for the rest of the penalties, meh.

I bring it up because Paul Johnson’s connection might be of some interest to Navy fans. His involvement in all of this is apparently that 1) he was told of the investigation when he shouldn’t have been, and 2) he then told the players in question. I know, rules are rules, but if I was in Johnson’s position I don’t think I would have done anything differently; coaches make their living in part by earning the trust of teenagers. Keeping something like this from them might feel like a betrayal of that trust, and I suspect that part of the reason why the NCAA doesn’t want coaches to know about investigations like this is for the coach’s sake. Still, if it is normal practice for schools to suspend players pending the result of inquiries into their eligibility, how can anyone not know what is happening? That sort of lets the cat out of the bag, doesn’t it? Someone explain it to me.

Anyway, for his part Coach Johnson has been pretty quiet on the subject LOL NO HE’S NOT.

WHAT REALLY SHOULD BE AN NCAA VIOLATION: Army’s duck-hunter uniforms from 2008 were certainly a violation of something. The all-camo getup against VMI had a little more to offer in gimmicky appeal, but didn’t exactly raise the bar aesthetically. Hopefully Nike takes a different direction with the Pro Combat unis they’ll be giving Army and Navy this year.

WHERE DID ALL THESE FLOATING TORSOS COME FROM

IN OTHER SERVICE ACADEMY NEWS: Troy Calhoun’s solution for graduation rates? Bribery!

NIUMAT’S CONTRACT EXTENSION: It was really just a down payment for a plane ticket to Guam.

FEINSTEIN’S DREAM DEFERRED: John will have to wait another 15 years for the Navy-Notre Dame series to end. I don’t think he’ll mind playing Marshall, though.

DAS HOOPS: The basketball schedule hasn’t been released yet, but we do know two games: Siena and Quinnipiac. Remember Quinnipiac?

My blog is sort of like the chicken pox virus: causes itchy bumps, then lays dormant for years before stress causes another painful breakout that can only be treated with herpes medication. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. If you’re institutionalized and miss the pain, though, don’t forget that you can find me on Twitter even when this place is gathering dust.

THE UNNECESSARY END OF AN ERA

Naval Academy fans spend a lot of time talking about the importance of having a coach that “gets it.” The exact definition of “it” depends on the person making the comment, but in general “getting it” means embracing the mission of the school to produce officers for the Navy and Marine Corps. We’ve all heard people say that they want a coach who takes that mission personally and incorporates it into his program. When I hear things like that, I just laugh. Sure, people say those things, but they should know better. None of that matters if the team isn’t winning.

Nothing proves that point better than the forced resignation of Richie Meade as the Naval Academy’s lacrosse coach. No coach on the yard reveled in the mission of the school more than Meade. You could see it in everything from the pride he takes in his players’ careers, to his team’s offseason conditioning program based on Marine Corps training, to his attire on game day. He is an Annapolis institution, respected not only by his peers in coaching for his success on the field, but throughout the Yard for his leadership. There is a reason why he was offered a position at the Stockdale Center. Speakers at the Academy’s Corbin Leadership Summit have included military leaders, corporate CEOs… and Meade. Hell, even the best sandwich at Drydock was named after him. Richie Meade was made to be a coach at the Naval Academy. You will never find a more perfect pairing of an individual with a school. But as I said before, none of that really matters. A coach could churn out a team full of war heroes every year, but that won’t be the standard to which he’s sooner or later held accountable.

I’m not one of those hyperventilating idiots who thinks that the athletic department should revolve around the lacrosse program, and that any AD decision made for the benefit of higher-profile programs (read: football) is evil. Major college athletics is a business. That business is to serve as the proverbial front porch for the school, increasing exposure and awareness, and driving interest that turns into applications for admission. Football, being the most mainstream of American sports, is the primary vehicle both for exposure and for revenue generation. Making money allows the athletic department to reinvest in itself with things like facilities, recruiting budgets, and hiring and retaining coaches. That, in turn, drives winning. Winning is ultimately what maximizes interest in a given team, enabling it to carry out its role in fulfilling the athletic department’s mission. It is important to the school that their teams win. These are the basics, and the opinions of those who won’t acknowledge these fundamentals should be ignored.

That’s the real problem with Coach Meade’s ouster: it’s a bad business decision. The fact that he has been such an excellent ambassador for the school is just icing on a really crappy cake.

There is no doubt that the last two seasons were a disappointment. It should take more than that, though, to justify firing a coach that has won 60% of his games, won 5 conference tournament or regular-season titles in the last 8 years, and taken his team to 7 NCAA tournaments. It’ll be hard to find a coach with a better resume than that. Hasn’t Richie done enough to earn the benefit of the doubt? Hasn’t he earned chance to turn his program around? Don DeVoe got 3 seasons before he was forced out, and his team fell a lot farther than the lacrosse program has. Billy Lange had two winning seasons in seven years, and he was going to be allowed to finish out his contract. Yes, these were the first back-to-back losing seasons in program history; but if the standard for Naval Academy athletic programs is to compete for conference championships, how can anyone claim that Coach Meade hasn’t done so, even during the 7-8 2010 season?

The problem is that the standard to which the lacrosse team is held is apparently different. Competing for conference titles isn’t enough for those influential lacrosse alumni from Navy’s heyday in the ’60s. In their view, Navy should be playing for national titles. Never mind that the game has completely evolved away from those days, where you could build a championship contender by stacking your team with football players to simply out-athlete the opposition. Today’s game is a specialized, year-round enterprise. The same challenges that Navy teams face in recruiting academically qualified talent willing to make a military commitment are just as applicable to the lacrosse team. You might expect the lacrosse team to be a little better nationally than others on the yard since there just aren’t very many lacrosse teams to begin with, but expecting a national powerhouse on a regular basis is unreasonable. One might argue that it wasn’t just the two losing seasons that led to Richie’s exit; it was the gradual downward trend since the 2004 dream season. Even that train of thought is short-sighted; what you call a downward trend, I call regression to the mean. Navy has never won an NCAA championship, and only played in one other title game back in 1975. In the 36 years since then, the typical Navy season has been somewhere between 6-6 and 8-5 or so, with only a handful of exceptions. Those who expect more are not only ignoring decades of precedent, but also ignoring the fact that Meade’s teams have outperformed that standard for most of the last seven years.

Most, but obviously not all. The Mids beat Johns Hopkins to put a silver lining on the 2010 season, but 2011 was all cloud. Holding Coach Meade solely responsible, though, is wrong. Coaching at the Naval Academy presents unique challenges; one of those challenges is dealing with NAPS. You’ll often hear people describe NAPS as some great advantage that Navy has over its opponents, but those who say so don’t understand how it works. The prep school is not USNA; players are not obligated to attend the Academy after going through NAPS. And in recent years, many haven’t been.  Someone once told me that the NAPS administration at the time viewed the school not as a preparatory school, but as a pre-screening to weed people out. NAPS retention has been a problem for several sports, not just lacrosse. The football team doesn’t feel quite the same effects simply due to the size of its roster; each lost football player potentially represents only 1/22 of a starting lineup as opposed to 1/5 of a basketball lineup or 1/10 of a lacrosse lineup. With the players who left the lacrosse program, it’s no wonder that the team struggled last year. Take 15-20 players away from any coach in the country and see if he does any better. Now that NAPS has new leadership, retention is picking up. Coach Niumatalolo recently brought in one of the smallest football direct admit classes in recent memory, citing improved NAPS retention as the reason. It’s getting better for the lacrosse program too, with last year’s team dominated by freshmen. This has the potential to be a fantastic class. Coach Meade has proven that he can do special things with players like these, and he deserved the chance to do it again.

It’s been almost two weeks, but I’m still having a hard time gathering my thoughts. I should probably be focused on the future by now, but that is apparently easier said than done. We’ve seen a lot of good moves from NAAA over the past several years, including where the lacrosse program is concerned. Forcing Richie Meade to resign, though, was a mistake. I am eager to see who the next coach will be and I will support him wholeheartedly once he’s named, but I may be in the minority. The next coach will not only have to live up to the standard of the old-timers who think Navy is entitled to games on Memorial Day weekend every year, but he’ll have to contend with another faction that will constantly compare him to Meade. It will be hard not to. Letting Richie Meade go isn’t the end of the world for Navy lacrosse, but it is the end of something really, really special.

It didn’t have to be.

A LONG TIME COMING

Richie Meade isn’t like the rest of us.  

Navy fans have had a pretty good run over the last few years. It’s hard not to be happy, what with all the winning and such. That is, unless you’re Richie Meade. Some of the happiest moments for Navy fans over the last decade or so have to be a source of angst for the veteran Navy lacrosse coach.

Not that he didn’t enjoy them just like the rest of us; but over time, our fond memories have become Meade’s curse. Let’s take the 2004 lacrosse season, for example. The Navy team rose to #2 in the nation and reached the finals of the NCAA tournament, while Meade was named national coach of the year. Along the way there were wins over top-10 teams Georgetown, Cornell, Princeton, Army, North Carolina, and Maryland (ranked #1 at the time). For most of us it was a dream season, especially considering how only a dozen teams have ever even appeared in the championship game. Yet for some– particularly those who still think of Dinty Moore and Willis Bilderback when they think of Navy lacrosse– it wasn’t a dream. It was their expectation. To them, that was what Navy was supposed to do. Never mind that in the ’60s, Navy could take a second-string linebacker and turn him into an All-America lax defenseman through sheer athleticism. That just doesn’t reflect the reality of today’s game, yet some people expect the same results. In the 5 years since the 2004 season, Meade’s Navy teams have won 55 games and 4 conference championships, beat Army 7 times, and played in all 5 NCAA tournaments. But what does he constantly hear? “Why aren’t you as good as the 2004 team??” Anything short of that, and some people act like it’s a disappointment.

Having your own success held against you is bad enough, but the suffering doesn’t end there. The crown jewel of the recent Navy fan experience is the football team’s win over Notre Dame in 2007, ending 44 years of futility against the Irish. But as the euphoria from that triumph began to fade, just about everyone’s thoughts turned to Navy’s other inexplicably long losing streak– the lacrosse team’s three decades of frustration against Johns Hopkins. Now that the Notre Dame monkey is off our backs, people said, when will the lacrosse team exorcise their demon?

That’s one question that Coach Meade doesn’t have to answer anymore. Navy defeated Johns Hopkins on Saturday, 9-8 (OT), in front of a lively crowd of 10,128 that came out to honor Navy’s seniors in their final home game.

This one was a long time coming.

Even if the losing streak to Notre Dame made you miserable, you could at least understand it. Notre Dame is a BCS-caliber talent magnet; a financial juggernaut with the resources to bail out the Greek government if it wanted to. The Naval Academy… isn’t. Sure, you’d think that the cosmos would toss the Mids a bone over the course of four decades and allow them to break through with a fluke win, but that’s almost what it would take– a fluke. If you look at the series year by year, Notre Dame was favored in every game. They were the better team. They were supposed to win. Notre Dame coaches weren’t looking over to the Navy sideline lamenting players who got away. The same can’t be said about the Navy-Hopkins series. While Hopkins is certainly one of the game’s elite, having won 9 NCAA titles since Navy’s last win in 1974, it isn’t like the Mids are chopped liver. Navy had a pair of championship game appearances themselves over the course of the streak, along with 23 tournament appearances. Hopkins attracts several of the game’s top players, but Navy has had quite a few All-Americans of their own. Hopkins has been the better program for the last 30 years, but the gap between them and the Navy lacrosse program is far, far smaller that the one that exists in football between Notre Dame and Navy. Since 2000, 6 of Navy’s losses to Johns Hopkins have been by one goal, including 3 that went to overtime. A Navy win might have been an upset, but it could hardly be considered a fluke.

And it wasn’t. Saturday’s game started out about as poorly as it could have, with the Blue Jays racing to a 5-0 lead at the end of the first period. After the whistle sounded to end the quarter, I wrote in my notes, “Oops.” Before the game, I had felt that this was as good a chance as any for Navy to end the streak. In a game between two struggling, .500 teams, I’d take the one with the hot goalie. No keeper in the country is hotter than Navy’s R.J. Wickham, while Johns Hopkins has had a hard time choosing a net-minder of their own. After one quarter, I felt like an idiot. Fortunately, I wasn’t (at least not for that reason). Navy answered the Hopkins outburst with a 6-goal run of their own in the second quarter, turning what looked to be a miserable game into a 6-5 nail-biter at halftime. The spark behind the Mids’ second-quarter explosion were freshmen Bucky Smith and Jay Mann, each of whom scored their first goals of the season after getting the call from Meade to run with the first midfield before the game. Both Smith and Mann were fed on those goals by Andy Warner, who would go on to score the game-winner in overtime. Those two goals from previously unheralded players seemed to underscore the theme of the entire Navy-Hopkins series. While Navy teamwork led to the Mids tallying four assists on the afternoon, all but two of Hopkins’ goals were unassisted, as the Blue Jays instead used their talent and quickness to beat Navy defenders in one-on-one matchups. Hopkins may still be the more talented team on paper, but on Saturday it was Navy doing the dirty work– winning faceoffs, getting ground balls, clearing the ball, and making the big hits– that made the difference in the game.

It was a fantastic win for a team that sorely needed one. On the surface, this was a much more important game for Johns Hopkins, since they’re still fighting for an at-large berth into the NCAA tournament. As far as post-season aspirations go, the game was meaningless to the Mids. They aren’t in the running for an at-large spot, so win or lose this game, they will need to win the Patriot League tournament in order to get in. Still, this is the Hopkins game; the burden that every Navy team has carried since 1974. The way the crowd erupted after Warner’s overtime goal, the way the midshipmen stormed the field, the way Coach Meade struggled to hold back tears after the game– this was anything but meaningless.

The season isn’t over yet. Perhaps this was the performance that the Mids needed to carry them into their game this afternoon against Lafayette in the Patriot League semifinals. But even if the Mids fall short of the NCAA tournament in what has been a down year, to finally beat Hopkins– to put an end to the burden of the streak– ensures that the 2010 season will be a memorable one.

PARITY, SCHMARITY (AKA THE STATE OF NAVY LACROSSE)

With a 14-5 dismantling at the hands of Duke in the first round of the NCAA tournament, the Navy lacrosse season came to a rather unceremonious conclusion. That was one painful game to watch, wasn’t it? It was the HBO free preview weekend on DirecTV, and I could’ve changed the channel to Schindler’s List and not have been as depressed as I was watching that debacle. Already a 10-0 blowout by halftime, it was probably the most disheartening Navy performance since the loss to Air Force in 2003. My father, after sending me a text message at the half announcing that he’d switched to the NASCAR race (I can’t blame him), called me after the game saying, “Well, at least we won the second half.” Which to me kind of felt like saying, “Well, I know we’re at the vet to put the dog to sleep, but at least we got a good parking space.” He was right, of course, but at the time I wasn’t really in the mood for silver linings.

With such a lousy ending, it would be easy to forget that there were, in fact, “up” parts in this up-and-down season. Looking at the big picture, there is quite a bit to be happy about. Navy went to the NCAA tournament for the 6th consecutive year after having missed the previous four. The Mids also won their fifth Patriot League tournament in the six years that they’ve been a member of the conference. The regular season included the first win over Georgetown since 2004, an absolute manhandling of Maryland, and a convincing win over Army to erase the memory of last year’s loss. There isn’t a Navy fan out there that wouldn’t have taken these results if they were offered to him at the beginning of the season.

Continue reading “PARITY, SCHMARITY (AKA THE STATE OF NAVY LACROSSE)”

NOT MONDAY POLL: GRASS OR PLASTIC

I decided to move the weekly poll to Tuesday in an effort to spread things out during the week. I can do this because this is my awesome blog and everything I touch turns to gold and makes the world a better place.

So before the game on Saturday, I thought I’d get warmed up by watching the last time Pitt came to Annapolis, back in 1987. The 10-6 Pitt win wasn’t the most exciting contest, but it still gave me a lot to think about. The first thing that occurred to me was how sad it was to watch that game knowing that its two stars, Alton Grizzard and Ironhead Heyward, are no longer with us. The second, less serious thought was how nostalgic I felt for grass at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

Don’t get me wrong; lacrosse alone makes FieldTurf the right surface for Navy. Not having to see slopfests on rainy April afternoons is a big plus. But for football, there’s just something about actual grass. On the other hand, the FieldTurf looks pretty sharp, too. So there’s the conundrum.

If you had your pick, which would you choose?

  • FieldTurf with the checkerboard endzones.
  • FieldTurf with the old N-A-V-Y endzones.
  • Grass with the checkerboard.
  • Grass with N-A-V-Y.

VICTORY OVER THE BLUE SCREEN

I’m probably the most technologically backwards blogger on the internets. I built myself a computer four or five years ago, and at the time it was a mack daddy machine. It’d still be a competent appliance today if only it had lasted that long; a little more than a year ago it decided that it had better things to do than to carry out my bidding and just quit working. Since then I’ve been using my work laptop, in all of its Windows 2000 glory. An abacus would’ve been as effective a computer at this point. Now that I mention it, that’s actually true. On Wednesday, my trusty corporate relic bit the big one and gave me the dreaded blue screen of death, making it a big, gray paperweight. The “fatal system error” message contained in that doomsday screen hinted at the disaster churning inside, as the hard drive had gone and charbroiled itself into oblivion. So while Army-Navy news was buzzing all week, I was silent. But not anymore! Last weekend I ordered my Apple-powered electronic savior, and it arrived yesterday morning. So while I may be broke as hell now, at least I’m connected. Lucky you!

So what about that Army-Navy news, anyway? We’ll start with lacrosse.

Army-Navy lacrosse is moving to Baltimore next year. The Birddog Says: Meh.

Inside Lacrosse magazine, who brought you this year’s “Face Off Classic,” is at it again. Their new event is the “Day of Rivals,” and it’s a doubleheader featuring Army-Navy and Maryland-Hopkins at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. There are two ways of looking at this. If you’re just a lacrosse fan, unaffiliated with either team… It’s great! The two games were played on the same day last year, and several area lacrosse fans made the trip for both. Putting both games in one place just makes things easier for people who’d otherwise consider making the trip.

If you’re a Navy fan… well, let’s just hope this doesn’t become a trend. Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium is already about as great a venue as there is in lacrosse. Playing the game in front of 45,000 empty seats might seem like the “big time” to some people, but not to me. Not that I mind throwing a bone to the local lacrosse fan once in a while, but does it have to be the Army game? Anyway, while it isn’t something I’m looking forward to, it isn’t the end of the world, either. Maybe there’s a little bit of money to be made on the deal. If anyone’s pissed about this, it’s Army fans– this is a two-year deal, meaning an Army home game is being played in Baltimore. Sucks to be them.

Army-Navy coming to a city near you? The Birddog says: I’ll believe it when I see it.

Bidding for the privilege of hosting the Army-Navy game was last done in 2003. Back then, 15 cities across the country threw their hats in the ring only to see Philadelphia walk away with the prize as usual. It’s that time once again for groups to submit their proposals, and the buzz is already starting about the possibilities. Army-Navy in Dallas? Tampa? San Antonio? Chicago? Yeah, sure. Back in 2003, if you’ll recall, one of the strongest bids was actually submitted by Seattle. A lot of good it did them. It’s tough for a city outside the eastern seaboard to make a competitive bid since the host is responsible for paying travel costs for 4,000 midshipmen and 4,000 cadets. Yet even though Seattle supposedly found a way to make it work, it didn’t do them any good. Putting the game out of reach for tens of thousands of season ticket holders is something that each institution’s respective AD is naturally hesitant to do. So while I expect a lot of noise to be made about how many cities are submitting bids and how competitive the process is, I doubt that it’ll be anything more than a strong hint to Philadelphia to make sure their bid is up to par and their stadium isn’t in such disrepair that railings are held up with duct tape. Expect to be grabbing steaks at Pat’s after the Army-Navy game for years to come, with the occasional bone tossed to Baltimore.

(When the time comes for bidding to be opened for the 2026 game, I hope it goes to Chicago for the 100th anniversary of the original “game of the century.” God help me if I’m still blogging by then. Although I’ll probably be using the same computer…)

The other change that is on the horizon for Army-Navy is the possibility of a presenting sponsor. I’m all for it. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to see “The Poulan-Weed Eater Army-Navy Game” any more than you do. But if it’s “The Army-Navy Game, presented by Northrop Grumman,” would that be such a disaster? Maybe if you work for Lockheed, but other than that it would just mean more money to pay coaches, recruit nationwide, and upgrade facilities. That = good. So if corporate sponsorship is indeed headed our way, here’s hoping it’s done the right way.