Does the Big East really need Army, Navy and Air Force for football? Yes, yes and no.
Let’s be clear, inviting the service academies to join a BCS conference is a brilliant move. Army and Navy bring a wealth of tradition, stature and respect. Navy sells out almost every home game, while Army draws 30-plus thousand to the 39,000-seat Michie Stadium.
Air Force is a different story. Truth be told, Air Force has had more success than Army or Navy on the football field, with 18 bowl game appearances since 1980. And we can’t forget the 1985 Falcons who went 12-1 and rose to No.2 in the polls. Army has been to just five bowl games in the last 17 years. Navy has been to 11 bowl games since 1980.
The problem with Air Force is the travel. Football being just once a week notwithstanding, adding an extra trip to the west will cost money for Big East teams. Keep in mind that the Big East doesn’t have a $3 billion TV deal like the Pac-12, nor do its member schools get an annual $21 million payout like Big Ten programs.
It will especially cost money for Air Force, which would have to make a minimum of four trips a year to the east.
Another problem bringing in Air Force is lack of notoriety. Air Force’s accomplishments in football notwithstanding, the Falcons don’t bring the type of flair Army and Navy does. Just having the Army-Navy football game played under the Big East banner would be a plus.
Imagine if Army or Navy actually found a way to win the Big East conference? It would keep the powers that be in congress off the backs of the BCS for a while. With Pittsburgh and Syracuse gone and West Virginia and Connecticut possibly out the door, now is the time to take advantage. It would be fitting to see a service academy playing a prime time game against another BCS power house in front of millions in early January.
Let's assume the league adds Army, Navy and Air Force. And let's also assume that West Virginia, Connecticut, TCU and Rutgers don't go anywhere. That would give the Big East 10 teams for next season. If the aforementioned teams bolt, which is a real possibility, it would leave the conference with just six teams.
Six teams isn't much, but there is still enough remaining to keep the league alive. We reported in an earlier post that East Carolina has applied for membership. Central Florida is also reportedly on the Big East's wish list if it loses teams.
The Big East will look completely different next season. Whether it is for better or for worse, you have to give them credit for not letting moment pass them by.