It’s been quite the spring season for Naval Academy athletics. Baseball, track, men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s tennis… All of them had very good campaigns. The women’s rowing team captured the Patriot League championship in exciting fashion, and in doing so clinched the conference’s all-sports Presidents’ Cup for Navy for the third time in four years. It’s boom times for the Blue and Gold, yet on-field success might not even be the biggest Navy sports story so far in 2015. Big news came off the field as well, as two Naval Academy athletes were drafted by professional leagues. Joeseph Greenspan was selected by the Colorado Rapids in the second round of January’s MLS SuperDraft, while the New England Patriots picked Joe Cardona in the fifth round of the NFL draft. Their selections re-ignite one of the oldest debates in service academy sports: under what conditions should athletes be allowed to turn pro?
It had been rumored for a long time, but now it’s official: Navy has signed a long-term agreement with Under Armour to outfit not only the football team, but the entire athletic department. Navy football had been with Nike since 2002, while other sports have had their own deals with various manufacturers (Navy lacrosse was actually with Under Armour for a few years in the late 2000s). Terms of the contract haven’t been revealed, although it was once rumored that the length of the deal is ten years. The Naval Academy joins recently-announced Notre Dame under the UA umbrella, along with other past and future Navy opponents such as Temple, Hawaii, South Carolina, Toledo, Boston College, Northwestern, Texas Tech, Utah, USF, and of course, Maryland.
It’s that last one that seems to be causing the most angst among the Twitterati, with the fear that Navy will start wearing some of the crazier getups that UA has provided for the Terps over the last couple of years. That’s not how these deals work, though. Nike and Under Armour don’t dictate to these schools what to wear. Maryland wears these uniforms because they want to. It’s similar to the relationship between Nike and Oregon. UA founder and CEO Kevin Plank attended Maryland, just as Phil Knight attended Oregon. The two use their alma maters as showcases for their brands, while the schools leverage that relationship for marketing and recruiting. Just as every Nike school doesn’t dress like Oregon, every UA school doesn’t look like Maryland. Each school has plenty of input into the process and ultimately decides what gets put onto the field. Most UA schools have maintained something close to their traditional looks. For all the hype about Maryland’s rebranding, Northwestern’s was one of the sharpest and classiest in the game. I’m sure there will be special one-time uniforms that some people don’t like, but some people didn’t like Nike’s Army-Navy uniforms either. It’s all in the eye of the beholder.
One of the most important elements to this deal is that it’s for all sports. In the past, with different sports having separate deals with multiple manufacturers, there was a somewhat inconsistent look for the athletic department. Some teams wore blue and gold, while others wore more of a blue and yellow, for example. With one manufacturer willing to pay for all of Navy’s sports, it gives the school the ability to promote a more consistent brand image across the board. A more consistent brand sends a louder message, which is very important to any school, especially a service academy like Navy.
Still, despite all the benefits, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the move is a little bittersweet. Nike was very, very good to Navy. I haven’t exactly been subtle in my praise for the Army-Navy uniforms of the last two years. Even if my desire to make them permanent was always going to be a pipe dream, it’s still a little sad for me to know that there’s no way it can possibly happen now.
In the end, it’s just business. Along those lines, the decision to move to UA reminds me of another recent business decision from NAAA. Nike is the unquestioned leader of their industry, much like ESPN was when they were bidding for the television rights to Navy’s home football games. Instead of going with the more established company, though, Navy decided to sign with upstart CSTV. It was a great call. CSTV eventually morphed into the CBS Sports Network, but no matter what they called themselves at the time, they’ve always treated the Naval Academy like kings. As the network grew, they took Navy along for the ride. Hopefully, signing with another hungry up-and-comer in Under Armour will pay similar dividends.
The weakening conditions expected across the course on Monday showed up, but not enough to slow the boats still on the course. The result? The Navy 44’s are showing that a “Sail Training Craft” is a force to be reckoned with. This is shaping up to be the best finish for the Naval Academy since 1992 when Constellation won the whole thing.
NA 23 Defiance sits at 2nd place in their Class and 2nd place overall this morning. The difference over the course of 635 miles? A scant 34 minutes and 34 seconds behind race leader Carina. Amazingly enough, Carina won the 2010 version of the race, meaning they could possibly repeat as winners if the current standings hold.
NA 11 Swift is sitting atop their class and is 3rd overall, 26 mins and 14 seconds behind Defiance. A class win here would be the first for USNA since Constellation.
The result has been a slight slide for the crew of Invictus – they now stand 11th overall in the St. David’s Lighthouse division.
We’ll let all the boats finish and give a final update once the trophies have been presented at the Governor’s Mansion at the end of the week.
The Varsity Offshore Sailing Team’s season continues throughout the summer, providing us with some actual results to talk about while the Brigade is spread around the globe. There are 5 boats that have been competing in June, with 2 in the Bermuda Ocean Race and 3 in the Newport to Bermuda Race. I’ll be writing more on the Newport to Bermuda race when the boats return to Annapolis, but there are a couple of things to address before then.
In the Bermuda Ocean Race, which began on June 8th, the Navy 44’s finished in 2nd and 3rd place in their class. It’s the 3rd race in a row (the BOR is held every other year) that Navy has finished 2nd in class and the first time since 1996 that the team places 2 boats in the top 3 of the class.
The Newport to Bermuda Race started a week later on June 15th. Navy has 3 boats in this race – 2 Navy 44’s and the TP 52 Invictus, the latter of which yours truly coached aboard for the 2010 running of the race. The weather set up to be fantastic for the race, with low pressure systems bringing winds that would favor the fastest boats and set up a rhumb line run under spinnaker.
While the 44’s are still on the course and looking to finish sometime during the night tonight, Invictus finished around dinnertime Sunday. In finishing the 635 mile race in 53 hours and 11 minutes with an average speed of nearly 12 knots, they became the 6th of the eventual 7 boats that broke the 10-year-old course record of 53 hours 29 minutes and 22 seconds set by Roy Disney’s Pyewacket in 2002 (yes that Disney). By comparison, it took us 76 hours 51 minutes and 56 seconds to complete the race in 2010. The new course record was set by the 90 foot boat Rambler which sailed the course in an astonishing 39 hours 39 minutes and 18 seconds for an average speed of 16 knots.
Invictus finishes the race in 3rd place in their class (the top class of the non-professional division) and will likely finish 3rd overall out of the 94 boats in the division. And as an added bonus, they beat the US Merchant Marine Academy TP52 Conviction across the line by 37 minutes 7 seconds when the USMMA boat had a faster handicap rating.
Here’s a shot of Invictus at the start of the 2010 Newport to Bermuda Race.
– CBS has announced a partial 2012 TV schedule for football. We’ve known for a while now that Navy’s match-ups against Notre Dame and Air Force are going to be on CBS with morning kick-off times. The big news here for Navy fans is that the Army-Navy game will kick-off at 3pm EST.
— Sal Interdonato (@salinterdonato) June 6, 2012
I have to disagree with Sal here. It’s not a weird time. It puts kickoff at noon PST, making it that much more attractive to viewers west of the Mississippi. We all know the game got a bump by shifting to the weekend after conference championships. Perhaps we can get a few more viewers with this slight adjustment (last year the kickoff was at 2:30pm EST). With the Big East TV deal looming, any boost in Army-Navy ratings now will deliver more TV dollars later.
– Navy Baseball had two players drafted in this year’s MLB draft. The Blue Jays selected outfielder Alex Azor in the 10th round – putting him as the highest drafted Navy player of all time – while the Brewers took pitcher Preston Gainey in the 11th round.
– Navy’s Zack Duncavage, a Youngster, placed 16th in the discus at the NCAA track and field championships this week. His finish nets him 2nd team All-American honors.
– Finally, this one slipped through the cracks at the beginning of the week, but bears mention. The Navy Men’s Lightweight Four won the IRA National Championship this past weekend in Camden, NJ. This was the final feather in the cap of Coach Rick Clothier, who has retired after leading the crew program for 38 years.
– The Annapolis Capital is reporting that three members of the Navy football team have left the school. They are Center Dale Howard, Fullback Mike Patrick, and linebacker Jarvis Cummings. All three were back-ups on the depth chart, with Howard and Cummings listed as #2 at their positions, while Patrick was 3rd string. While this doesn’t hit the top-line, it certainly undermines depth at those positions.
– Navy Women’s Lacrosse team captain Kierstin King has been selected to play in the IWLCA Senior All-Star Game on June 16th. She joins two other players from the Patriot League, Lehigh’s Leigh Ann Torcivia and Colgate’s Courtney Miller.
– The Big East is looking towards the Poinsettia Bowl for possible western expansion of their bowl game tie-ins starting in 2014. Their current bowl inventory does not reach the Mississippi River, with the westernmost bowl game being the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Alabama. The MWC has an agreement with the Poinsettia Bowl that expires in 2013. With Navy scheduled to play in the bowl game in 2014 (if bowl eligible), such a match-up could give us a preview of league play in 2015.
– The demo for NCAA Football 13 has hit the PS3 and Xbox 360. While this normally wouldn’t be huge news for our blog, there’s a hook. Users who share the demo with friends will unlock Nike Pro Combat uniforms for five teams: Ohio Shate, LSU, Boise State, Stanford and…wait for it…Navy. That’s not bad company to keep.
No word yet if there is a combat coaching mode for Air Force fans.
— Inside Lacrosse is reporting that Richie Meade will be named as the first head coach of the new lacrosse program at Furman. It’ll be weird seeing him on another college sideline, but we all knew it would happen at some point. Good for him, and good for Furman.
— Navy won the Patriot League Presidents’ Cup for the 2011-2012 academic year. It’s the first time Navy has won. Bucknell had won the last six, with the Mids finishing second in five of those years. Navy doesn’t play Patriot League football, field hockey, or softball, and only recently added women’s lacrosse and women’s tennis. Both of those programs have become very successful very quickly, and their rise (along with the rise of women’s programs in general) helped to finally push Navy over the top. I’ve never worried much about the Presidents’ Cup, but it’s a nice to get a bit of affirmation for a great year by the athletic department.
— Speaking of the rise of women’s lacrosse, Cindy Timchal shall now be addressed as Hall of Famer Cindy Timchal.
— Not all the news is good. As the kids say, “smh.” Sperry had dropped on the depth chart this spring thanks to the rise of Jonathan Wev, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t have fought back. At the very least he would’ve provided experienced depth for a defense that had none last year. I hate the offseason.
— On to the conference expansion mess… The headline here says “Texas AD not for expanding,” but that’s not really the impression I get from reading the article. The way I read it, DeLoss Dodds is just trying to remain noncommittal, either for the sake of not tipping his hand or just not wanting to set off a firestorm of rumors based on his comments. Like this. I do believe that Big 12 expansion is far from a given, though, especially after their recent monster television deal. Would Florida State and Clemson really add that much value? Would a championship game make enough money to offset splitting television revenue by two (or more) additional teams? Maybe, but I don’t know if that’s a certainty. Let’s hope not.
— The Big East’s league meetings are wrapping up today, but there is plenty to talk about already through days 1 & 2:
- The most interesting (and important) bit is that NBC and Fox both gave presentations on why the Big East is appealing to them. I don’t know what was contained in those presentations (or where that lovely $2 billion number came from), but I suspect that it pretty much sounded like the last few paragraphs of this. I’m telling you, this conference has the potential to make money if it can just stay together.
- Speaking of which, one report is saying that “multiple sources” expect Air Force or BYU to join along with Navy in 2015. Well, OK. I don’t know if anyone’s “expectations” are really worth mentioning, since these stories change by the day. I’m going to need to see a lot more smoke before I believe there’s a fire there. If we’re just going to speak hypothetically, then either one of them would be a good addition. Air Force would be better for Navy, although BYU would be better for the league. The best-case scenario would be to add both of them plus Army, but don’t hold your breath. Of the two, BYU might (somewhat surprisingly) be the most likely since they are facing most of the same challenges as an independent that Navy had. I was a big fan of BYU’s independence (still am, actually), but a lot has changed even in the short time that they made that decision. I’m sure that BYU is at least keeping their options open. As for Air Force, I get the feeling that they’re content with attempting to rule the tattered remnants of the Mountain West. A Gazette column calling them “cowardly” is surely on the way.
- Divisional alignment possibilities were also discussed, although no decision was made. I had always assumed that it would be an east-west split, given that Boise State and San Diego State were both adamant about having a western partner for the conference. I still think it makes the most sense, although I’m also sure that neither Louisville nor Cincinnati get giddy over the thought of joining a western division. All I want is for Navy to be in the same division as UCF so we can create a rivalry trophy out of George O’Leary’s severed head on a stick.
- The championship game for the conference will be played on-campus instead of at a neutral site. GOOD.