It's finally official, Navy will join the conference as a football only member, the BIG EAST formally announced today. The Naval Academy, one of the nation's elite and most respected institutions, will begin competing in the 2015 season.
By adding Navy, it brings the BIG EAST's football membership to 11 schools. In December, the conference announced that Central Florida, Houston and Southern Methodist University as full members and Boise State University and San Diego State University as football only members. The BIG EAST Conference Board of Directors unanimously voted to extended the invitation to Navy.
"When people look back, they will mark this as a truly historic day for the BIG EAST Conference," said Commissioner John Marinatto. "America's first national football conference is adding a program with true national appeal. Navy's decision to make the BIG EAST its first football conference home after over 100 years of independence demonstrates the value of our new expansion model and the long-term viability of our football product. The BIG EAST is truly proud to be associated with one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the country and one of the most storied programs in college football."
The addition of Navy, along with the other new members, will boost the BIG EAST's television reach to more than 31 million homes. Ten conference members will be located among the top 20 television markets and 16 will be in the top 50.
The BIG EAST already had the largest media footprint in college football and the addition of Navy makes that footprint even larger. BIG EAST football will span from coast to coast and will be the first truly national college football conference.
"I am honored to welcome the United States Naval Academy and its football program to the BIG EAST Conference," said Judy Genshaft, University of South Florida President and Chair of the BIG EAST Conference Board of Directors. "The Naval Academy's steadfast commitment to the educational, moral and physical development of our future leaders echoes the ongoing missions of our current and future members to achieve success at the highest levels of intercollegiate athletics. We are indeed proud to include the Academy under the auspices of the BIG EAST Conference."
The BIG EAST will be Navy's first conference affiliation for Navy, who's played as a football independent since 1879. The academy, is one of only four schools to produce a U.S. President and a Super Bowl-winning quarterback. Navy has produced two Heisman trophy winners, Joe Bellino and Roger Staubach, and one national championship team.
"The Naval Academy is pleased to accept the invitation for our football team to join The BIG EAST Conference," said Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Admiral Michael Miller, USN. "After careful consideration, we believe this affiliation to be in the best interests of the Naval Academy, our athletic programs and the Brigade of Midshipmen. While our independent status has served Navy football well to date, BIG EAST conference affiliation will help ensure our future scholar-athletes and athletic programs remain competitive at the highest levels for the foreseeable future."
"The BIG EAST will provide an expanded stage for the American public to see our nation's future leaders," said Naval Academy Director of Athletics Chet Gladchuk. "Expanded media opportunities and coverage by the BIG EAST will elevate the national visibility of Navy football to the highest levels. This new affiliation will brand Navy football as a member of a BCS conference whose competitive aspirations include the opportunity to compete for a championship. The BIG EAST plays a prominent role in the NCAA governance structure and affiliation will ensure that the Naval Academy solidifies its position as an important contributor to leadership decisions on the national level."
Navy has annually ranked near the top of both the NCAA's APR and Graduation Success Rate for student-athletes. This past year, Navy's Graduation Success Rate of 96 percent placed the academy in the top four of all FBS institutions.
Navy has played in eight bowl games in the last nine seasons and has made a total of 17 bowl appearances. The Midshipmen rank in the top 20 nationally with 75 wins in the last nine seasons. Navy will continue to compete against Army and Air Force for the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy. They have finished in the top 10 in rushing yards every year since 2003.