American Athletic Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco has been staunchly advocating that his league is as strong from top to bottom any of college football‘s Power Five conferences. Part of that initiative includes having member schools wear “P6″ helmet decals, indicating the AAC should be part of a Power Six.
On Wednesday, Aresco addressed another perceived slight against the AAC based on an ESPN report citing an anonymous bowl official who said “nearly everyone in the bowl industry, quite frankly, is rooting against Navy” in Saturday’s conference championship game against Temple.
That comment was in reference to the possibility that a Navy victory could force a delay in announcing who will play in the Cotton Bowl. Under rules of the College Football Playoff system, the highest-ranked team from the Group of Five, as the lower-rated conferences college football’s top tier are known, has a guaranteed spot in one of the top six bowl games. According to the person quoted in the ESPN report, a delay in announcing the Cotton Bowl matchup would start a domino effect that could “paralyze” the bowl system.
“There have always been plans in case this happened to minimize the impact on the bowl system, so I think that’s overstated,” Aresco said in a telephone interview, referring additional questions to Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff. “That’s as far as I can say.”
Navy (9-2) is 19th in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, two spots behind Western Michigan (12-0) for the inside track on the Group of Five’s Cotton Bowl berth. The Broncos will play Ohio on Friday in the Mid-American Conference championship game. The Midshipmen would fall from Cotton Bowl contention with a loss in the AAC championship. But should they win, the margin between them and the Broncos might be small enough to convince the College Football Playoff selection committee to hold off on announcing the Cotton Bowl berth until after the Army-Navy game on Dec. 10.
Hancock confirmed the possibility to ESPN, saying, “If the committee believes the result of the Army-Navy game could affect Navy’s ranking and therefore its place in the playoff or its selection as the Group of Five representative, only the pairings that affect Army and Navy would be delayed until after the Army-Navy game.”
“First of all, I appreciate the opportunity that the playoff and the commissioners have extended to the Army-Navy game because again it is in fact an opportunity to delay it a week if we are in contention,” Navy Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk said in a telephone interview. “And everyone’s going to honor that and respect that. That was an extension made last year by the commissioners out of respect for the Army-Navy contest, America’s Game.”
The postseason is scheduled to begin with five bowl games on Dec. 17. A delay in announcing which teams are headed where who shorten the time for teams to prepare for their opponent, fans to make travel plans and organizers to promote the matchup. That’s the scenario, according to the ESPN report, bowl officials are seeking to avoid.
Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo, who was named AAC coach of the year on Wednesday for a second straight season, said of his team’s possibilities: “It’s exciting to be in this position.”