Navy plays two Big Ten teams in 2014. That will never happen again.
Thanks to an 8-game AAC conference schedule starting in 2015 and annual games against Air Force, Army and Notre Dame, Navy has 11 of its 12 football games locked in every year. That means playing Ohio State and Rutgers in the same year will be impossible. In fact, with only one game to play with, it’s doubtful they will ever again play a Big Ten or ACC team – as they will more likely add a home game against a team like Florida Atlantic to ensure an easy win.
For Navy, do they really want to join the AAC? When they first made the move to the conference, the conference didn’t even exist – it was the now departed Big East. It also made sense. Navy had a very real fear during that realignment chaos that an independent football team would be left behind, as the big schools broke away and left Navy closer to Delaware than Maryland.
That, of course, did not come to pass. The Football Bowl Subdivision has its have’s and have not’s but it is still one big, relatively happy family. And by joining what is now the AAC, Navy doesn’t gain anything – it is literally in the exact same position it would be in 2015 as independent except with more games locked in.
It’s not as if the addition of Navy is going to bolster the AAC’s standing in life. The only true positive of having a brand like Navy is their attractiveness to bowl games, who have historically bent over backwards to lock up the Midshipmen and sell tickets. But those bowl games only want Navy – the rest of the AAC’s motley crew of schools provide little to no interest for bowls. And that’s why the AAC’s bowl lineup starting this year is putrid, at best.
Furthermore, having Navy in the fold hurts the league in two different and painful ways. For starters, the league absolutely cannot go to 9 conference games because Navy would have every single game on its schedule locked in. Mike Aresco can spin this as giving AAC teams more non-conference opportunities, but those dry up when the Big Ten moves to 9, the SEC does likewise as is expected, and the ACC has 9 for half its league with Notre Dame. If a rumored SEC/ACC scheduling pact goes down, the non-conference chances dry up further.
Secondly, and maybe more painfully, the addition of Navy as a football-only member leaves the AAC with 11 full-time members, which means a scheduling headache for basketball and many other sports. Every weekend during basketball season, one team won’t have a conference opponent. It was the scheduling nightmare of 11 teams that was the impetus for the Big Ten’s initial expansion that started the whole merry go round in motion.
We are barreling toward a 2015 football season in which Navy and the AAC enter into a marriage neither really wants, but both are forging on for…the sake of the children? I can’t answer why. It’s a lose-lose.
Navy has no schedule flexibility. The AAC has 11 teams for basketball and no scheduling flexibility. Does Navy even want to play for a conference title? Do you think the players at Navy, and their fans, would rather be playing in the AAC Championship Game on the first weekend of December or preparing for Army?
The solution is already out there. The ACC is doing it with Notre Dame. The AAC needs to do it with Navy. And with Army.
Mike Aresco, like inadequate Big East leaders before him, has been trying for years to convince Army to join the conference. They failed. They finally got Navy but it was too little, too late. So it’s time for an annulment.
The solution is to have Navy and Army play 6 AAC teams each, similar to how Notre Dame plays 5 ACC teams. That helps those institutions fill up their schedules while leaving enough room for flexibility – 6 AAC games and 2 Commander-in-Chief games will serve as 8 de facto “conference” games every year.
Meanwhile, the AAC teams get 9 games scheduled every year, so they can stay at that number with 12 teams while still scheduling aggressively in the non-conference without having to fret over filling up a full slate.
More benefits? The AAC gets 6 home games a year against national brands in Army and Navy – remember, the AAC’s sole goal is to improve the value of its television contract over the duration of its current, shitty contract with ESPN.
Want more? Like the Notre Dame deal, Army and Navy can be brought into the fold for AAC’s bowl games. As with the TV contract, the goal is to show value until the next round of negotiations. Bringing Army and Navy to the table would be a huge boost in trying to get deals with games like the Liberty Bowl or Pinstripe Bowl that opted instead for very low-level Big Ten, ACC or Big 12 teams.
In short, Navy as a full football-playing member of the AAC is not going to work because there is no added value. Navy likes it independence. It likes setting its schedule on the CBS Sports Network, times included, before the season starts. It likes the ability to play Ohio State in Baltimore or Notre Dame in Ireland.
For the AAC, it needs to ensure its future. Navy playing 6 games as an affiliate member does that. Navy playing 8 games does not. It’s really that simple.
Navy will play in the AAC in 2015. It will be a mistake.
Follow me on Twitter