With its height and weight restrictions and triple option offense, it’s unlikely Navy ever finds itself competing for a playoff spot. Ken Niumatalolo has done a fantastic job in Annapolis building the Mids into a consistent bowl team, but it’d take a miracle for his team to be in the playoff discussion come December.
But with Navy joining the American Athletic Conference July 1, it has a clear path toward earning a bid to a New Year’s Six bowl. So that the Mids won’t budge on moving their annual game against Army from the second weekend in December — one week after conference championship week/the end of everyone else’s regular season — is rankling at least one group of five conference commissioner.
“Let’s say everything is delayed a week,” Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said, via the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “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.”
If Navy were in this situation and beat Army in mid-December to earn a New Year’s Six bid, it’d push the top Mountain West team to the Las Vegas Bowl, which is scheduled to be one of the first bowl games played every year. As Thompson points out, it’d give that team only a week to prepare and its fans barely any notice to get to Las Vegas — and unless UNLV, Nevada, San Diego State or Fresno State is that team, its fans would have to book last-minute flights to get to the bowl game (even Fresno and Reno are a long drive at just under six and seven hours, respectively).
Navy seems intent on keeping its game with Army in December, and would be willing to miss out on a New Year’s Six bid to keep it scheduled when it is.
“(Moving it) would show that we’ve realigned our priorities in a way that doesn’t complement our mission,” Navy AD Chet Gladchuk said earlier this year. We can’t do it. It’s something that’s that special.”
That’s a noble approach, but probably one that wouldn’t please the AAC if it came down to Navy being the best group of five team and a New Year’s Six bid going to another conference. Money drives college football, and now that Navy’s in a conference, we’ll see how long it can hold on to tradition in the face of it.
For the sake of the Army-Navy game, let’s hope the Mids can keep it on that special December weekend even if there are negative consequences for other conferences or a Navy team trying to reach a big-time bowl. But Texas doesn’t play Texas A&M anymore, Mizzou doesn’t play Kansas, Pitt doesn’t play West Virginia…the list of conference cash-related rivalry casualties over the last few years should remind us to not rule anything out.