“It’s special when you get the opportunity as a college football player to play at a military academy,” said Steve Beck, the president and executive director of the D.C. Bowl Committee. “I’ve talked to a number of kids who’ve had the chance. It just brings something a little bit special, a little bit more memorable.”
It’s unclear if the Military Bowl will be played at Navy’s home field beyond this year. All bowl contracts, with the exception of the national championship game, are up for renewal in 2014.
The change in venue coincides with Military Bowl officials’ mission to recognize the contributions of U.S. service members. The inaugural game in 2008 included Navy. Two years ago, Air Force participated when the ACC and Conference USA did not have enough bowl-eligible teams.
The quality of ACC representative in the Military Bowl figures to be elevated this year, with Pittsburgh and Syracuse growing the conference to 14 teams. Notre Dame also is joining as a partial football member and will be part of the ACC’s bowl pecking order starting next year.
Last year, North Carolina and Miami excluded themselves from postseason play, leaving 10 available ACC schools. But there weren’t enough bowl-eligible teams from the conference, forcing Military Bowl officials to look elsewhere.
Army also had a tie-in, but the Black Knights were not bowl eligible, either, thus resulting in a matchup of teams from the Mountain West and Mid-American conferences. San Jose State beat Bowling Green, 29-20, in front of an announced crowd of 17,835.
“Without something unforeseen, we’re going to get an ACC team,” Beck said.
Only twice has an ACC team competed in the Military Bowl. Wake Forest played Navy in the inaugural game. In 2010, Maryland beat East Carolina, 51-20, in the final game for then-Terrapins coach Ralph Friedgen.
It will be the first time Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium has hosted a bowl game since it opened in 1959. Navy has hosted other athletic events at the 34,000-seat venue, including the NCAA women’s lacrosse championship in 2005.
Navy Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk indicated a percentage of the revenue generated from the Military Bowl — including stadium rental — would go to the school’s sustainment fund. Money from the sustainment fund is used for maintenance of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
“What I’m really excited about is it’s an opportunity to showcase a really wonderful facility that aligns with the spirit and the purpose of the bowl game,” Gladchuk said. “There will be thousands of fans, young children and families that will come to Navy-Marine Corps that have never been there before. I think it’s going to be a wonderful day for everyone.”