Big East Commissioner John Marinatto held a press conference at 3 PM Tuesday to introduce officials of the US Naval Academy as football playing members of the conference starting in 2015.
The agreement to join the Big East was described as maintaining the Commander-In-Chief games with Army and Air Force and the annual game with Notre Dame.
Further Navy Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk stated that the Army-Navy game would remain as the "Last Navy game of the regular season and played on the second Saturday in December." The conference affiliation for Navy would be for football only and the Midshipmen would remain in the Patriot League for other sports.
The discussions leading to today's announcement was described as having been going on since January 2010.
The Big East also announced that the exit fee for any football school leaving the conference would be increased form $5 million to $10 million.
Big East Commissioner John Marinatto welcomed Navy to his football conference describing Navy as having "Over 100 years of football experience, and is one of the most prestigious academic schools in the country."
He mentioned that Navy had "produced both US Presidents and Super Bowl quarterbacks" and pointed out the program had played in eight straight bowl games before 2011.
Marinatto described that the football configuration of the conference would reach 31 million television households.
About further expansion referring to both the football and basketball leagues the Commissioner said,
"We are not done yet!"
University of Cincinnati President Gregory H. Williams welcomed the Naval Academy to the Big East, describing their academic prestige and noting their "96 percent graduation rate" in the most recent year.
Navy Superintendent, Vice Admiral Michael Miller USN said,
"We are pleased to accept the invitation for our football team to play in the Big East. We believe this is in the best interest of the US Naval Academy."
The Superintendent noted the advantages of being in a major conference and mentioned the "Separation growing between the BCS and non-BCS teams widening."
Navy Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk extended appreciation to Big East Conference Commissioner John Marinatto noting the Commissioner's "Patience and composure " during the discussions which lasted through 12 months.
Gladchuk mentioned several times the challenges of scheduling and noted that in college football today, "opportunities skew towards conference membership."
The Navy AD confirmed that they would honor existing agreements with bowl games and that the the Big East would "accomodate" their annual rivalry games with Army, Air Force, and Notre Dame. He mentioned that joining schools like San Diego State, located near huge Navy and Marine bases and SMU and Houston, would continue "historic" experiences.
Navy football head coach Ken Niumatalolo described the announcement as, "A great day for the Navy football program...Very excited about the opportunity."
Although acknowledging the challenge in joining the competitive Big East, he said, "We will not compromise who we are," adding "We feel we can do it."
Niumatalolo went on to note about college football, "The differences between the haves and have nots is widening."
When asked if the Big East had demonstrated stability for its future, Admiral Miller said,
"The Stability of the Big East is very important, the Big East has incorporated that."
About maintaining the two annual service academy rivalry games the Admiral said, "We always want to protect our rivalries with Army and Air Force."
Chet Gladchuk went on to say that the move was made based on the "Changing dynamics of college football." About the risk of being over-matched in the Big East, he said, "Facilities we have put in place over the past 10 years minimize the downside."
Time will tell if Navy can handle the rigors of playing a Big East schedule, then supplementing that with three intense rivalry games against Army, Air Force, and Notre Dame. Army tried this in Conference USA in the 1990s and the team was worn down badly. The program is only now recovering.
Navy will benefit from additional television revenue, conference provided visibility, scheduling, and potential invitations to higher level bowls, even the potential to play for the national championship. Traveling to California to play in San Diego every other year will allow the team to be seen by large groups of Navy and Marine Corps members based in the area. The Mids already play Connecticut, Rutgers, and SMU regularly right now.
The question that stands out is if height and weight restrictions at Annapolis will limit the size of lineman Navy will need to handle week in and week out the 300-plus-pound linemen routinely found at BCS level schools. Rutgers for example listed recently on their roster 30 players over 275 pounds and nine over 300 pounds.
Army, now the only one of the three service academies without conference membership, will again be asked about conference affiliation. When I spoke to West Point Athletic Director Boo Corrigan during the season on our radio show when the question of Big East expansion came up, he was quite clear that Army was comfortable staying independent.
Time will tell.
Ken Kraetzer cover Army football and Iona basketball for WVOX 1460 in New Rochelle, NY and Sons of the American Legion Radio. His address on Twitter is SAL50NYRadio.