With the college football landscape undergoing significant upheaval, Navy has been in talks with the Big East to examine the possibility of joining as a football-only member and surrendering its longtime status as an independent, according to Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk.
While Gladchuk confirmed reports regarding the Big East’s interest in adding Navy, he also said the school has no immediate timetable for joining, instead preferring to wait until the conference offers more stability with regard to its membership.
This week, Syracuse and Pittsburgh announced they were leaving the Big East for the ACC, and the conference faces an uncertain future as the other league schools that play big-time football — among them Connecticut, Rutgers, West Virginia and Texas Christian, which is scheduled to join next year — weigh their options.
“The status is we’re resting comfortably as an independent,” Gladchuk said Thursday in a telephone interview. “We’ve worked very diligently over the last 10 years to put an infrastructure in [place] that’s supported this program as far as scheduling is concerned, as far as the bowls, television, and it’s worked. We feel good about where we are today.
“We have a game plan today that takes us seven, eight years into the future as an independent without any disruption and without any concern. The exercise for Navy today is based on strategic thinking. What’s the landscape going to be seven, eight years down the road?”
The Midshipmen have enjoyed flexibility as one of four independents in the Football Bowl Subdivision along with Army, Notre Dame and most recently Brigham Young. But with the spate of conference shakeups, Navy’s viability as an independent appears to be dwindling, particularly in terms of scheduling.
Scheduling quality opponents figures to become even more problematic for Navy with larger conferences becoming the standard. The Midshipmen have played Bowl Championship Series schools such as South Carolina, Ohio State and Stanford over the last 10 years, but as conferences evolve and expand, member schools have less leeway and perhaps inclination to play outside their conferences.
“The Big East has changed a little bit,” Navy Coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “It’s not the Big East that it was, so there are a lot of variables that change all the time. It’s like the weather. We’ve got to watch it, but you can’t predict it. But we’d be stupid not to watch.”
Also working against Navy to some degree is its strong showings against top-tier BCS schools. The Midshipmen (2-1) took then-No. 10 South Carolina to the wire on Saturday before losing, 24-21.
While Navy would lose some scheduling flexibility if it joins the Big East, Gladchuk said the academy would require assurances that its longstanding rivalries with Army, Air Force and Notre Dame would not be jeopardized.
“I think that what Navy can do is to evaluate it carefully to see how the Big East emerges over the next, pick a day, pick a week, pick a month,” Gladchuk said. “And then when the Big East is back on solid footing and they’re comfortable with the membership as it stands today and is fully committed, then I think it becomes a very legitimate consideration for us at Annapolis.”