A lot of people are getting excited about Navy's football game at Delaware Saturday.
That is exactly the reaction Navy Athletic Director Bo Coppedge was anticipating when he scheduled the Blue Hens back in the fuel-crisis days of the early 1970s. But Coppedge admitted today that interest had exceeded even his long-term hopes.
"At the time we arranged a series of games, the fuel situation was a factor," Coppedge said. "Also, with Delaware being close by, I figured we would help their crowd and they'd help our crowd.
"Now I'm having a tough time coming up with tickets. A lady on the Eastern Shore called me today looking for tickets and she used words I haven't even heard in an engine room."
Delaware officials have placed seats in every spare corner of Delaware Stadium, but 23,000 tickets are far short of demand and all were gone three weeks ago, marking the earliest sellout in the stadium's 33-year history. It will not be a record crowd only because there will be no standing-room tickets, as there were when 23,619 saw the Blue Hens lose to Temple, 31-8, in 1973.
The Delaware series, which runs through 1992, is evidence of a philosophical change in Navy's scheduling policy, once geared to bringing the Midshipmen within view of all sections of the country.
The longest trip this season is to Notre Dame. Except for the Irish and Air Force, the longest journeys over the next three seasons are to Bloomington, Ind., in 1986; Blacksburg, Va., in 1987 and Columbia, S.C., in 1988.
"I'm scheduling for 1998 now and, except for Air Force, I don't think we're going west of the Mississippi again," Coppedge said. "We played Washington in Seattle twice in recent years and they were fine football games with big crowds. But when you charter a plane to go west of the Mississippi and spend two nights on the road, you can draw a lot of people and still not break even."
Coppedge and Coach Gary Tranquill are not concerned that Navy risks embarrassment in playing a good team such as Delaware, with little credit likely from most quarters should it beat the I-AA Blue Hens.
"There are no bad teams, in my estimation," Coppedge said. "The 95-scholarship rule has restored parity to football. Anybody we play is going to be tough."
"I don't look at it as a no-win situation," Tranquill said. "I'm sure some coaches look at us that way. But I figure it's an 11-game schedule and it shouldn't matter who you're playing. You play to win and I don't look at any opponent as being better or not as good as you re."
One item of concern to Tranquill is the noise level at Delaware, where the Blue Hens' band and avid supporters have been known to disorient opposing signal callers.
"I've never seen a game there, but we're aware of the problem and we've talked about it," Tranquill said. "It's always a concern, because it only takes a couple of missed communications. But it can't be worse than playing Syracuse in the (Carrier) Dome."
Tranquill said he had no fears that his team would experience a letdown following Saturday's disheartening 21-19 loss to North Carolina.
"We were a little upset and mad at ourselves, but we got right on Delaware Sunday afternoon," Tranquill said. "We had good practices Monday and Tuesday and we should be ready."
Neither Tranquill nor Coppedge could recall having heard of a lineman downfield penalty nullifying a two-point conversion before the one that deprived Navy of a tie on Saturday.
Informed that the same call had cost Bowie High two points Saturday morning, Coppedge said, "I'm glad to hear it. I wouldn't want to go through life thinking that was the only time the call was ever made. To say I went from mild elation to deep depression in 20 seconds is the understatement of the year."