And this one’s a doozy.
The College Football Playoff’s management committee will discuss Navy’s eligibility for this season’s New Year’s Six bowls because of the academy’s new conference affiliation and the timing of its annual game against Army.
Navy will join the American Athletic Conference in the fall.
The commissioners’ concern is if the Midshipmen are ranked high enough to earn one of the New Year’s Six bowl bids — and then lose the following week to Army. That loss would not count toward Navy’s final ranking, penalizing other teams that would have earned a New Year’s Six bowl bid if the loss was factored in.
When money and college football are involved, it’s a no-brainer to follow the money, but in this case, the PR optics are horrendous. And don’t think the grand poobahs of the sport aren’t aware of that.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby best described the delicate matter facing the management committee.
“Given the rich history of the Army-Navy game, its patriotic significance and pageantry, I can appreciate the desire of the academies to play on a stand-alone date with the eyes of the nation able to watch,” Bowlsby said. “However at this juncture, I’m not sure how best to address the impact of the game’s outcome on the CFP given Navy’s move into the American Athletic Conference, and the potential for it to secure a spot in the structure as a conference champion, or highly ranked non-champion.
“I will want to discuss this possibility and viable options with my FBS commissioner colleagues before formulating a recommended course.”
Translation: oh, shit, do I have to make a decision?
Unfortunately, that’s what they pay you the big bucks for, Bob.
The problem for these guys is that crapping on the military is a spectacularly bad idea for a group that is already making mouth noises about needing Congressional help on the antitrust front. But the other mid-major conferences aren’t going to let the CFP folks off the hook, because, money.
The likely solution? Deflect the debate away from Army and Navy and make it a it’s-the-principle-of-the-thing call.
MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher and Benson also indicated the policy needs to be reviewed. Besides Navy and Army, another possibility, a commissioner suggested, is what if other schools opt to play the week after the final rankings are released and, win or lose, would remain eligible for the New Year’s Six bowls? Also, what would keep independents Notre Dame and BYU from trying to schedule a 13th game the week after the final rankings?
Yeah, what if, bitchez?
Here’s the thing – no other schools besides those two are playing after the final rankings. How hard would it be to prohibit any other schools from doing so? Not very, except that’s not really the issue here.
Swarbrick said it’s important to maintain college football’s traditions.
“You want to try and honor and preserve traditions — look at how we protected the bowls,” another commissioner said. “Army-Navy is one of the more significant traditions in college football. How do you preserve that tradition without unsettling the basic elements of the playoff structure?”
One commissioner said 126 of the 128 FBS teams are conforming because of the College Football Playoff — except for Army and Navy, who play the only game after the rankings are released.
“That,” the commissioner said, “is the fundamental tension.”
I’m afraid this is a war the service academies aren’t gonna win. College football’s most important tradition is undefeated.