Skip to main content

Navy would rather miss the College Football Playoff than move the Army-Navy game

Army Navy2

Navy joins the American Athletic Conference - oddly enough, as a member of the conference's West Division - this fall, which creates a ripple effect that touches nearly half of the FBS.

Since Navy is now a member of the AAC, it is eligible to compete in the AAC championship game, which will be held Dec. 5. Since it is eligible to win the AAC title, it is considered part of the pool to earn the Group of Five berth to a New Year's Six bowl. (For the uninitiated, the Group of Five are the five mid-major leagues - AAC, Mountain West, MAC, C-USA and Sun Belt - that share one New Year's Six bowl berth.)

And because Navy is eligible for the New Year's Six, the six New Year's Eve and New Year's Day bowl games aligned with the College Football Playoff, it creates an interesting conundrum for the Playoff's selection committee. You see, Navy doesn't fit neatly into the box that comfortably houses the rest of FBS. Navy and Army conclude their regular season the Saturday after Selection Sunday, which means the Playoff's leadership - the 10 conference commissioners - will have to figure out how to handle the Midshipmen should they play themselves into the discussion.

One thing is clear, though: the service academies aren't interested in moving their game for the sake of the Playoff.

"If it means that we've got to sacrifice the opportunity to participate in the playoff system, then that's something we'll have to deal with," Navy AD Gladchuk told USA Today. "We'll have to work on that."

Imagine, for example, an 11-1 Navy team with an AAC title in hand with one game remaining against a 6-5 Army team. Does the selection committee hold a Peach Bowl spot open until the conclusion of that game, thereby creating a series of logistical hoops to jump through? Do they go ahead and award the spot to an 11-2 Boise State team, perhaps prematurely excluding a more-deserving Navy team? Or do they give the spot to Navy, thereby running the risk of the Midshipmen losing to Army and watching their resume tumble? (Army is also eligible for a Playoff berth, but as an independent it is not eligible for a Group of Five spot and would have to play its way into one of the two semifinals.)

The Playoff isn't quite sure what to do. CFP executive director said the board of directors had some "robust" talks on the issue at its meetings last month and left it at that.

"(Moving the Army game) would show that we've realigned our priorities in a way that doesn't complement our mission. We can't do it. It's something that's that special."

Standing on principle in the face of watching a lucrative option fall by the wayside is an admirable display of integrity. Know who should admire that stance? The College Football Playoff itself. Just one year in, the Playoff has faced pressure from the NFL and ESPN to move its championship game from Monday night to Tuesday, a request to acquiesce to The Shield and The Worldwide Leader's quest to expand Wild Card weekend from two nights to three in a blatant cash grab.

But the CFP isn't budging. “We’ve started a new tradition and we don’t want to back away from it now,” Hancock said.

In a sport that sells tradition like Marlboro pushes nicotine, none stands above the Army-Navy game. The academies shouldn't have to move their game just to make things easier on the selection committee.

The feeling here is that the Playoff will effectively end Army and Navy's regular seasons after the first weekend in December like everyone else and deem the Army-Navy game an exhibition for its purposes. A loss can't hurt either team, but a win can't help them, either. At least, that's what they should do.