Army-Navy proposal alive on Big East table
By Mitch Vingle
Since the Atlantic Coast Conference’s raid of the Big East in 2003, rumors have swirled in regard to the latter’s membership.
The Big East quelled some of that by adding Cincinnati, Louisville and South Florida in all sports and DePaul and Marquette in all but football.
Still, talk of Big East expansion remains. There’s Internet banter. And, really, with good reason.
That reason is football scheduling. Football is the lifeblood of the eight full members. Yet, in a time when schools can schedule 12 games, Big East teams are assured of but seven via their affiliation.
So the names of possible additions fly. From East Carolina, Central Florida, Navy, Memphis and, to some degree, Marshall to the far-flung notions of Kentucky, Penn State, Maryland and North Carolina.
Nothing, though, is happening because the basketball conference is overloaded with 16 teams. Absolutely no room at that inn.
But there is a solution.
It’s not a perfect solution. But it is a sensible solution that is on the Big East’s proverbial table.
Fashion a joint football-only membership for Army and Navy.
Here’s the idea. Strike an agreement with the service academies to play four games apiece each year against Big East schools.
That would accomplish goals for both sides. You may remember that Army left Conference USA at the end of the 2004 season. The objective was to have more flexibility in scheduling. Those at West Point hope to again make Army a power using the Notre Dame approach. Schedule and recruit nationally.
Navy has a like stance. The desired status is independence.
In the Big East scenario, Army and Navy can keep their independent statuses. Forget “joint membership.’’ Spin it as an “association.’’ (The schools won’t, after all, be eligible for a conference title.) And, voila, independence maintained.
Yet the service academies have a pool of Eastern schools to play each season. It’s a pool that’s been heated of late with the emergence of West Virginia, Louisville and Rutgers as national powers. The athletic departments will have to schedule but eight, not 12, games per year.
Meanwhile, each Big East team will be assured of four league home games each season. As it stands, Big East members are assured of four one year and three the next. And the goal of every major program is to have at least seven home games per season. (This isn’t, by the way, about building toward a conference championship, which takes 12 schools. Odds are that won’t happen for years, if ever.)
Multiple sources within the Big East confirmed the Army-Navy idea is alive, although, according to one “not full-blown yet.’’
Which is unfortunate. The idea makes sense. No, neither Army or Navy make the eyes pop when spotted on football schedules. But they do have nationwide appeal.
Army, for instance, will have all five home games this coming season televised by some, well, branch of the ESPN family. (The games will be on ESPN Classic, ESPN2 and ESPNU.)
Navy, meanwhile, had enough juice to steal the Meinke Car Care Bowl from the Big East last season and has already signed a deal to appear in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl this season with six wins or more.
Bottom lines: If a deal is struck, Army and Navy could play four Big East games and globetrot for the other eight. The current Big East schools could have their four-four league split and four non-conference openings. A very nice balance.
The proposal, by the way, isn’t new. Army and Navy fans know it was floated when Army left C-USA. At that time, Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk was asked about just such a setup with C-USA.
“Independence at this time is serving us well,’’ Gladchuk wrote on Navy’s Web site. “Maybe down the road.’’
In regard to another question regarding the Big East, he wrote: “If down the road the Big East is a possibility, we’ll consider it very carefully.’’
Gladchuk is a former AD at Boston College (as well as Houston and Tulane), so he knows the Big East turf.
We’ll see if he and the others involved indeed consider this “very carefully.’’
In a conference that’s already unwieldy (see basketball-football setup, Notre Dame affiliation), it’s an idea that floats.
To contact staff writer Mitch Vingle, send e-mail to mitchvingleATwvgazette.com.
Plus, here's some discussion on the topic as well: