Some Thoughts on This Week

The Navy football program does not have a history of adjusting very well to coaching changes. The team’s success under Wayne Hardin and George Welsh were followed by even longer stretches of futility. That history made Paul Johnson’s 2007 departure for Georgia Tech somewhat frightening, but it was hardly a surprise.

Everyone knew the deal when Johnson was hired. He is fueled by a relentless desire to prove his doubters wrong, to the point that he almost seeks out new people to doubt him. His fans would call it a competitive spirit. His detractors call it ego. However it’s framed, that drive is what makes him the successful coach that he is. It’s what brought him to Navy, and ultimately what caused him to move on to the next challenge.

Ken Niumatalolo has different motivations, although they are every bit as compelling. Don’t get me wrong; he is just as much of a competitor as his predecessor, and detests losing. He is an innovator that never stops looking for ways to improve every aspect of his program. At the same time, he is driven by more than what happens on the field. The winningest coach in Naval Academy history is a family man dedicated to his faith, and those values are reflected in how he runs his football program. He makes sure that his staff has the time to make their families a priority, too. Players want to play for him and coaches want to coach for him. While it’s a different kind of impulse compared to his predecessor’s, it’s no less a part of what makes him successful. And it too was almost the catalyst for his departure.

Almost.

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Long Live the Streak

Navy has now won 14 straight games against Army. Nothing accomplished by the likes of men has ever been so beautiful, yet there are some among us that do not appreciate this gift that we’ve been given. There are Navy fans that feel sorry for Army, and say that things would be better if maybe they won a game every once in a while. I wrote about this phenomenon a couple of years ago. My feelings have not changed.

Not everyone says these things out of sympathy. For some, it’s pragmatism. They worry that because the series has become so one-sided, ratings will decline and the game will lose its value for the next television contract. I disagree, and after the game I said this:

Well, the ratings are in. So how were they?

Fantastic.

The streak doesn’t hurt the Army-Navy game. To the contrary; it makes Army-Navy must-see television.

People who like football will watch whatever game is being shown. What draws the general public to sports is the drama. That’s why you see so many human interest stories during the Olympics, for example. When you get to know the athletes and their stories, you care more about how well they do. You watch.

Navy’s winning streak has the same effect. People tune in because they want to see if this is the year the streak ends. Every Navy win just adds more desperation to the Army side. It adds more emotion. It adds more drama.

As a result, it adds more viewers.

Someone on Twitter made a great comparison:

https://twitter.com/keegsdotcom/status/675857210040295425

People watched the Triple Crown races because it had been so long since a horse had won it. Now that it finally happened, do you think there will be the same interest next year? I doubt it.

Army-Navy is the greatest rivalry in sports, and that brings with it a certain level of drama on its own. People are going to watch. The streak just adds to it. So cheer for the Mids without guilt, Navy fan. It’s better for everyone.

(Seriously, why does this even need to be explained to you ungrateful malcontents?)

Keenan Reynolds Deserves the Heisman Trophy

Columns suggesting that Keenan Reynolds should be considered for the Heisman Trophy started popping up as he approached Montee Ball’s record for career rushing touchdowns. Since he broke the record, they’ve become even more frequent. Navy’s senior quarterback has been receiving attention nationally as well as locally, from a variety of outlets. National media voices like Kirk Herbstreit and Tony Barnhart have mentioned his name as a serious candidate. All of it is deserved.

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The American, the G5, and New Year’s

There is Tuesday Night MACtion tonight with the potential to affect the Group of 5 New Year’s 6 bowl landscape. Otherwise, this post could await the College Football Playoff rankings refresh and could be a lot less speculative. The speculation: How far will Houston (#19 last week) fall? Will Temple replace Memphis as a third AAC team in the committee’s rankings? Will Toledo re-appear, as the Rockets did in the AP poll?

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G5 Access Bowl Roundup

The top-ranked champion of the “Group of Five” or G5 conferences earns a slot in one of the New Year Six bowls – this year the Peach Bowl or Fiesta Bowl. For the second week in a row, the American Athletic Conference is the only G5 conference appearing in the College Football Playoff Committee top 25 rankings. With three AAC teams there, to all others’ zero, it is safe to say that the American has established itself as the cream of the G5s. While that gives the AAC champ the inside track, the other conferences have some contenders lurking, and worst-case AAC fratricide could leave the door open.
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