Conference Shuffle Could Alter Army-Navy

Imagine a multi-billion dollar corporation without a CEO...or closer to home for Navy fans…a ship without a captain. Both scenarios are an appropriate way to describe the NCAA. However I think the best analogy would be a prison without a warden because there is currently a jailbreak taking place and the greedy thugs are currently running the asylum. Could they change the Army-Navy rivalry?

Just this week NCAA president Mark Emmert confirmed in an interview with USA Today that he has absolutely no control when it comes to the conference reshuffling going on in college athletics. According to the article, Emmert is pretty much just like you and me – he can advise but take no action to prevent your favorite college team from going to any conference of their choosing. That decision, according to Emmert, is left to each university president.

In fact if you go to the NCAA web site and look under the tab for 'key issues,' conference alignment isn't even considered a concern. The NCAA is focused on enforcing rules to ensure an even playing field amongst its athletes. When it comes to players getting paid, watch out, the NCAA will be all over you. But when it comes to university presidents chasing the almighty dollar, they turn a blind eye and use words like ‘autonomy' and ‘advisory' and ‘independent academic institutions' to describe their relationships with school leaders.

Ironically, if a student-athlete accepts a five dollar bill from a booster, he gets the death penalty from the NCAA. Meanwhile, if a college president moves to another conference to get more ESPN-BCS money…he is unaffected by the same body.

It's incomprehensible that people like Ohio State University President Gordon Gee and BCS dictator Bill Hancock could ultimately kill every tradition in college football. However, without any clear leadership to prevent university presidents from chasing the aforementioned paydays, anarchy will continue.

If you are saying to yourself ‘anarchy' seems a bit harsh, consider how many great rivalries are already dead on arrival in college sports: Nebraska-Oklahoma…Texas-Texas A&M…Syracuse-Georgetown (in basketball). These are just the obvious ones…what about the more obscure ones like Pitt-West Virginia? Will the Panthers really want to keep their backyard brawlers on their much tougher ACC schedule? I doubt it.

Do you think there was ever a time when these fans thought that these cherished rivalries would disappear simply because of greedy people named Gee and Hancock? Of course not…

When people are chasing money, the first thing you should throw out is tradition…quickly followed by logic…just ask the Texas A&M women's volleyball coach about substituting nearby rival Texas on its schedule for South Carolina. I'm sure Laurie Corbelli (I actually looked it up) will tell you that she is looking forward to taking on the Gamecocks, on a Wednesday night, over 1,000 miles away, but don't believe her. She's just saying that so she won't get fired by her greedy boss.

That's exactly why Army and Navy fans should be somewhat worried.

Talking to Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk earlier this week helped ease some of my fears, but I'd like to see a similar statement out of Army. After all it's much easier for Navy to say that they want to remain relevant and compete at the highest level of college football because the Mids have been doing just that since 2003. Army, meanwhile, is still a work in progress.

(Update: Looks like Army is staying as an independent…according to this story.)

Sure neither the superintendent at West Point or the Naval Academy will ever admit that all of this conference alignment could impact the purest rivalry in college football, but right now there are no guarantees.

I do not think all of this conference shuffling will eliminate the Army-Navy rivalry in football, but I do think it could have a significant impact on it. Just consider the following: if the Big East decides to hold a championship game and Army, Navy and even Air Force are all members, scheduling of the Commander-in-Chief Trophy games immediately becomes problematic. Perhaps Army-Navy on Thanksgiving weekend, with the winner possibly playing for the Big East Championship a week or two later wouldn't be a bad thing, but it would take some getting used to.

If Navy is a member of the Big East but Army isn't all bets are off as to when the Army-Navy game could be held.

Also, I'm sure there would be some revenue hurdles to overcome in regards to the money generated from the Army-Navy game. Surely the Big East would like a piece of that tasty pie. It may be crumbs compared to the BCS payouts, but just inserting the words Big East into the branding of the game is a bit unsavory to me.

Now that it seems like Navy might be more inclined to make a move towards the Big East without Army in tow, there is a possibility that the Army-Navy game could one day feature a BCS (super conference) team versus a non-BCS team. Can you say recruiting advantage to the Mids?

Regardless of how this all turns out, one thing is for certain: It is a good time for college football programs to have strong leadership. The phrase ‘In Chet We Trust' is very common amongst Navy fans and for good reason. The list of accomplishments by Navy's athletic director over the past decade is significant. However, the decision facing him regarding Navy joining a conference could be his biggest ever and the impact it will have on the entire athletic department, as well as the cherished Army-Navy rivalry could be enormous.

If only the NCAA was led as well as Navy, then the only concern Midshipmen fans would have right now is whether or not the loss to South Carolina was enough to keep their team from receiving an invite to the playoffs if they finish the season 11-1.

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