More than six months after the announcement that the Army-Navy game would be played this year in Pasadena, Calif., some people still are upset that they will have to share one of college football's real traditions with Mickey and Goofy.
Never mind that for the first time, the game will be played on the West Coast; that the corps of cadets and brigade of midshipmen will be flown out at a cost of $3.5 million; that they will be wined and dined for three days, including a night with Disneyland all to themselves. All that matters is that the Army-Navy game, after 38 years in Philadelphia, is being played in Tinseltown.
"It's just what you'd expect--everybody on the East Coast is hopping mad and everybody on the West Coast couldn't be happier," says J.O. Coppedge, athletic director at the Naval Academy.
"We've gotten an awful lot of letters about it," says Carl Ullrich, his counterpart at West Point. "You can imagine what the East Coast alumni are saying."
The 84th Army-Navy game will be worlds apart from its predecessors. In Philadelphia, there is a minimum of pomp: the marching of the corps and brigade into JFK Stadium, the game itself and balls and parties for students and alumni afterward. Most principals and spectators are in and out of the city in 24 hours.
In Pasadena, there are plans for a coaches' breakfast attended by 800, a luncheon for brass from both services, a reception and dinner for 700 hosted by California Gov. George Deukmejian and a concert by the schools' glee clubs for 2,000. And that's on Nov. 23, two days before the game.
The next night, Thanksgiving, Disneyland will be closed to the public for the use of the cadets, midshipmen and their families--about 20,000 people in all, according to Pasadena officials. On game day, the entire corps and brigade will march through downtown Pasadena to the Rose Bowl. Then comes a reception for VIPs and dances for cadets and midshipmen.
"We've got to plan for 9,000 cadets and midshipmen for three days," says Rolfe Arnhym, West Point '53 and executive vice president of the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce. "So we've got to keep them busy."
It was Arnhym, in his capacity as president of the West Point Society of Los Angeles, who approached the academies more than two years ago with the Rose Bowl idea. "I saw the declining attendance and interest in the game, and the lack of visibility west of the Mississippi," he says. "There are enormous numbers of graduates and friends of the academies who don't live on the East Coast, who can't go to the game at all."
The schools' biggest objection was not "tradition"--at least as far as the site was concerned. "Basically, what the academies wanted was assurance of the same level of involvement as Philadelphia's," Arnhym says. "If we could bring both student bodies out, and house and feed them, it was all right with them."
"I was thrilled to death," says Ullrich. "If I had my druthers, we'd move the game every four years."
In Pasadena, the Army-Navy '83 Foundation, a nonprofit organization, was set up to attract donations to cover the estimated $6 million it would cost to hold the game (including the $1.2 million fee from ABC-TV the schools would split, as well as $325,000 each in ticket revenues). Arnhym, as executive vice president of the foundation, came up with the biggest cost-cutter: housing students in private homes.
"We'll have about 1,000 students from each school in hotels," he says. "The rest, we're putting in homes."
In Philadelphia, officials say they were disappointed by the move but not surprised. "It's in the contract that they could move the site one year," says Joe Chase of the office of the city representative. "Interest in the game went down during the Vietnam War years, and a lot of people didn't like it when television moved it to December and it was so bitterly cold and dark when you got out of the game at 8 o'clock. But they still think of it as Philadelphia's."
Chase said Philadelphia has no plans to match the glitter of Pasadena when the game returns in 1984 to begin a five-year run there. "We're talking about different weather (in Philadelphia)," he said, adding that Army and Navy are negotiating an agreement with Philadelphia whereby the city will guarantee a sellout of JFK Stadium, meaning a modest money increase for the schools.
Tom Hamilton, for one, can't understand the fuss. An all-America halfback at Navy, he played in the 1926 game in Chicago--heretofore the only one played away from the East Coast. Later, as Navy's athletic director and as a rear admiral, he continued his interest in the series.
"People talk about 'tradition,' but it doesn't matter where the game is played, although Philadelphia has been a very genial host," says Hamilton, now retired. "It is a classic event that stands on its own, regardless of the site. The game belongs to the nation, not to a city."