After a strung-out courtship that apparently lasted 10 years according to Navy Athletic Director Chuck Gladchuck, the Midshipmen are finally part of the Big East (/Country/Continent/Least, etc.)… in 2015. While I’m always one to applaud the tradition of our service academies as major college football programs, it’s still difficult to see what this addition truly gives the “country’s first national football conference” (source: John Marinatto, who also believes Syracuse, Pitt, TCU and West Virginia were wrong in leaving). While Navy surely adds more tradition than most of the current conference schools, what it lacks is success to go along with it. Yes, the Midshipmen have been to eight bowl games in the last nine years, but just nine bowl games during the previous 125 years of play. And if for some reason, their triple-option attack just can’t measure up anymore (we saw glimpses of this during 2011), Navy could end up as an annual bottom-dweller.
So now what? For the conference to truly be a “national,” coast-to-coast league, the final addition almost HAS to be west of the Mississippi. Remember, the Big East will likely have 13 teams in 2013, but then drop down to 10 in 2014 with the departures of SU, Pitt and WVU. Navy bumps them back up to 11, but with seven teams in the Eastern time zone, two in the Central, one in the Mountain and one in the Pacific, any “Western” division likely needs another team in the western part of the country. Still, we’ll dissect some quick odds on the remaining candidates, taking an open look at the country:
Temple (Odds: 10/1): In spite of the league’s push to the west, former conference member Temple is still probably the best bet. A rising football program, big city and a historically competitive basketball team give them an edge most other candidates just don’t have going for them.
Air Force (Odds: 12/1): Sure, Air Force said no, but that doesn’t mean this is over. Another team in the Mountain time zone makes travel easier for the other western teams and adding the Falcons gives Navy a little more scheduling flexibility, too.
BYU (Odds: 15/1): The Cougars also said no, but with a lot of success, a national brand and the allure of more television dollars, maybe the two sides can figure out a way for both to get along when it comes to BYU’s TV network. If they do, both have a pretty solid future ahead.
UMass (Odds: 40/1): What better way for the Big East to shoot the ACC right across the bow than come into their own backyard? Plus, UMass has a strong enough basketball program to join for all sports. It’s a risky move just a year into the school’s FBS history, but it’s worked out before.
ECU (Odds: 42/1): The Pirates’ only-game-in-town stature and passionate fan base make them a perfect replacement for West Virginia and another foray into ACC territory. Best of all, they’ll contend right away and help the conference keep its BCS status (if that still exists).
Toledo/Southern Miss/Hawaii (Odds: 60/1): All of these are far-fetched, but at this point, any will do in order to add a quality program and improve the conference’s national stature. With San Diego State already in the mix, it’s no longer a stretch to imagine the Warriors in the fold, along with their well-known brand.
Which alternative would you prefer? Feel free to share below.