After Action broke the big news last year that set the sports world on fire: The Army-Navy game would be the only top-tier college football contest that would not at all influence the College Football Playoff selection process.
Sure, neither the Midshipmen nor the Black Knights were on anybody’s national-championship radar. And yes, that radar hasn’t covered Annapolis or West Point since the 1960s. Still, the fact that the contest takes place with the CFP field already locked in creates the possibility of a highly regarded service academy team earning a chance to play for the national title … then getting demolished by its rival on national television.
A scenario similar to the above apparently has spooked some college-football power-brokers: ESPN’s Brett McMurphy reported Wednesday that the CFP’s management committee will discuss Navy’s eligibility to participate in a “New Year’s Six” bowl — either the semifinal playoff games themselves, or one of four contests with participants drawn from a pool of conference champions and other at-large teams that didn’t make the playoff.
It’s a two-headed issue. Those not interested in the machinations of college football bowl selection probably should skip the bullet points:
- Navy’s move into the American Athletic Conference next year gives it a clearer path to a New Year’s Six berth, because the highest-ranking champion in the CFP’s selection system from either the AAC or one of the other “Group of Five” conferences gets an automatic invitation. If Navy wins the AAC and edges out another Group of Five power in the rankings to earn that bid, then gets steamrolled by the Black Knights in front of millions on CBS the next week, the process would be called into question. Also, the folks with the CFP would get a lot of nasty letters from fans of Boise State or Marshall or whoever gets passed over.
- If Army and Navy are allowed to play a game after the selections have been made, what is to prevent another school from scheduling a game on the second Saturday of December? McMurphy reported that one of the league commissioners brought up such a scenario — one that could prove tempting to a school seeking national recognition by playing a post-Army-Navy night game on national TV with no other games competing for viewers.
American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco told McMurphy that he had “creative solutions” that could allow the Army-Navy game to count in the CFP selection formula, but wouldn’t reveal them. It’s difficult to picture any that would answer all of the CFP’s concerns that don’t involve a time machine.
Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk dismissed one possible fix: Moving the Army-Navy game to an earlier date.
“It needs to be a stand-alone game,” Gladchuk told ESPN. “That game has become a focal point for America. It’s just a wonderful event, an opportunity to showcase what America is all about.”
The topic will come up at the managers’ April meeting, McMurphy reported. Army faces Navy on Dec. 12 in Philadelphia. Navy could play in the inaugural AAC championship game the previous week. Neither team has any plans for New Year’s — at least not yet.