Navy Sails into Big East Football

The Big East expands its membership for football again, with the addition of Navy.

Big East logo with football on field

Big East logo with football on field

Big East logo.The Big East Conference continued its effort to stabilize the league’s football competition on Tuesday with the announcement that the U.S. Naval Academy will join the conference as a football-only member in 2015.

The addition of Navy comes seven weeks after the Big East added two football-only members and three all-sport members, in the wake of the announced departures of conference members Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and West Virginia to other leagues.

John Marinatto, Big East commissioner, also said the conference continues to pursue its goal of adding another football member, which would reach the objective of establishing a 12-team football conference with the ultimate goal of also having a championship game.

“Navy’s decision to make the Big East its first football conference home after over 100 years of independence demonstrates the value of our new expansion model and the long-term viability of our football product,” Marinatto said. “The Big East is truly proud to be associated with one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the country and one of the most storied programs in college football.”

In 2015, the Big East football membership will consist of Boise State, University of Central Florida, Cincinnati, UConn, Houston, Louisville, Navy, Rutgers, San Diego State, University of Southern Florida, and Southern Methodist University.

Speaking during a national teleconference, Navy administrators said after considering the changing landscape of Division I Football Bowl Subdivision competition and seeking to maintain the service academy’s stature in football as a national program, they had determined affiliation with the Big East “will help ensure our future scholar-athletes remain competitive at the highest level for the foreseeable future.”

Chet Gladchuk, Navy’s director of athletics, said, “Opportunities to exist as an independent into the future are clearly in jeopardy. When you take a look at the scheduling, the conditions now that will be imposed on institutions into the future regarding scheduling versus independents, television and bowl opportunities, and external opportunities to generate resources are going to be skewed much more to conference memberships.”

Gladchuk added that in determining a conference affiliation, Navy also sought a partner that would protect scheduling of its historic football rivalries with Army and Air Force, and with Notre Dame, a member of the Big East in all sports except football.

“Our rivalry with Air Force and Army transcends the normal college rivalry,” Gladchuk said. “The schools are very similar; competition is extremely keen. Any time we’re playing a service academy, we’re the best of friends off the field and we are the biggest of competitors when we’re on. We will always want to protect that affiliation. Fortunately the Big East has afforded us that opportunity.”

Vice Admiral Michael Miller, superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, said: “We look at scheduling, television and bowl opportunities, and we see a great opportunity to be shared with the Big East. Perhaps the vision for the future is still a bit cloudy, but it’s clear to us that this affiliation with a BCS conference, the Big East, will provide critical opportunities for major programs that we wish to continue to compete with at the higher levels of intercollegiate football. This is a welcome opportunity.”

Gladchuk also noted that another factor for Navy to join the Big East was the addition of several institutions that it has played in recent years, including San Diego State, Southern Methodist University, and Houston. “Stability was very important to us,” he said. “We believe the Big East has incorporated that. We see a very bright future for us.”

Navy head football coach Ken Niumatalolo described the announcement as “a great day for our football program,” and said the team will maintain its institutional mission through its competitive play.

“We understand who we are as a football program,” Niumatalolo said. “We’re here to develop leaders for our country. First and foremost for us is our moral and mental mission. We take that very seriously. As bad as we want to win and be competitive in this conference, we will not do anything to compromise who we are at the United States Naval Academy.”

Navy has annually ranked near the top of both the NCAA’s APR and Graduation Success Rate for student-athletes. This past year, Navy’s Graduation Success Rate of 96 percent placed the academy in the top four of all Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) institutions.

Navy has played as a football independent since the program began in 1879. The Big East will be Navy’s first conference affiliation. The academy, located in Annapolis, Md., is one of only four schools to produce a U.S. President (Jimmy Carter) and a Super Bowl-winning quarterback (Roger Staubach). Navy has produced two Heisman trophy winners, Joe Bellino and Staubach, and one national championship team.

Navy has played in eight bowl games in the last nine seasons and has made a total of 17 bowl appearances. The Midshipmen rank in the top 20 nationally, with 75 wins in the last nine seasons. Navy will continue to compete against Army and Air Force for the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy. They have finished in the top 10 in rushing yards every year since 2003.