Gladchuk helps build Navy bowl tradition

Anyone who thinks that Navy's momentum and strong reputation among bowl game executives began with the 2003 Houston Bowl is about three months off.

Coming off a 2-10 season, Chet Gladchuk was confident enough in the program that, in August 2003, he began lobbying bowl officials to keep the Mids in mind if they became eligible and those bowls had an opening, according to the organizer of the Houston Bowl.

Navy wound up at the Houston Bowl in part because Clemson beat South Carolina in late-November. That gave the SEC five eligible teams for six slots.

Gladchuk believes Navy got lucky to get into the Houston Bowl at such a late date—ahead of other eligible teams, including Air Force.

He often says the Midshipmen did not receive a bid at the eleventh hour. "It was the 11th-and-a-half hour."

Yet the organizer of the Houston Bowl isn't so certain Navy would have gone without a bowl game. Jerry Ippoliti believes Navy may have found one because Gladchuk had been so persuasive in selling what he could: Namely, Navy's tradition, its loyal fan base that would buy 20,000 tickets (compared to the several hundred that Boston College, Georgia Tech and Miami have sold in recent years) and the pageantry of Navy football.

Ippoliti said he was "blown away" by what Navy brought to that bowl game. "When the Brigade of Midshipmen did their march-on, it made me want to strap it on and join them," he said. "People had tears in their eyes. We asked the Navy team to be ambassadors for the Houston Bowl all week, and they could not have done better. They did everything we asked."

And this is a compliment about the team that lost, 38-14.

Since that game, of course, Navy's bowl profile has taken off. The Mids may have a deal in place in the next few days with the Poinsettia Bowl for 2007.

That bowl also wants Navy back in 2008, 2009 or 2010, according to published reports.

A lot of this is because Navy is expecting to be bowl eligible for the near future with Paul Johnson as coach (and for what it's worth, I don't think he's going anywhere anytime soon).

But I am not certain Gladchuk gets the credit he deserves in brokering these deals. For Navy to be on the verge of having a bowl bid in hand before the season starts two years in a row is remarkable.

It takes the pressure off the program; it makes being an Independent something in Navy's favor rather than have it be a disadvantage; there is no doubt that Navy's leadership in athletics is second to none. For all the hand-wringing—and rightfully so—about Johnson's status (and my best source believes Johnson was not that close to leaving for UNC or NC State) it would be nice to hold onto Gladchuk and appreciate him as well.

Onto the game, and it still amazes me that Navy has gained more than 600 yards in two of their past four bowl games (the 1996 Aloha Bowl and the 2005 Poinsettia Bowl).

Yet those games were against defenses ranked higher than 100 in the final defensive rankings (Cal was 108 and Colorado State was 104 against the run).

My best guess is Saturday's game will be more like the Emerald Bowl, minus the quagmire. Yards will be hard to come by, and this is where the Midshipmen will miss Ballard and Hampton badly. But also don't forget, the option is predicated on taking what the defense is giving; if Kaipo makes the right reads, Navy will move the ball.


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