Army-Navy: America’s Classic

Well, Army’s gone and lost again, making them the first NCAA Division I-A school to go 0-13 in a single season. Meanwhile, Navy’s 8-4, and headed to their first bowl in about five years. Even though it’s Navy that’s going to the bowl game, it’s about time one of the two did so.

This game is truly the greatest rivalry in all of sports, and it’s made a bit more poignant because we’re at war. It’s altogether too likely that more than one of the players in this year’s game may die, not on the fields of play, but on the fields of strife. No other rivalry features that as a subtext.

So, given all that, Army went and played their hearts out–and managed to lose 34-6.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Personally, I think both Army & Navy should be consistently able to win at the I-A level. I don’t think they’ll ever contend for a title again–the BCS has taken care of that–but, surely, consistent 7 and 8 win seasons should be manageable. Here’s how I’d do it:

1. Don’t schedule the big boys, Army. You know what I mean. Yes, I know you won back-to-back titles in 1944 and 45. Yes, I know you used to wax teams like Florida State. Well, that was then, this is now. There’s no reason why your schedule should include teams like that. Stick to people like Boston College. Better yet, even though it will stick in many a Black Knight alum’s throat, do what Bill Snyder did at K-State: schedule nothing but patsies for the next few years, until you can consistently start out a season with 3 or 4 wins before you suffer your first loss. That does wonders for your confidence.

2. You did the right move in becoming an independent again. Now, if you want to tussle with a big boy, you can mess with Notre Dame. Try it. While Navy’s gone almost 40 years since beating the Irish, they’ve been close the last few years. The time’s drawing nigh when Navy will pull one from them. That could be you.

3. Don’t worry about scoring a “name” coach. “Name” coaches, like Frank Solich, know that coaching, and more importantly, recruiting at Army is an uphill battle. You can’t recruit the bluechips, for the most part–that half-decade service requirement after graduation tends to put an NFL career on the permanent backburner–so you’re starting from behind already.

What you can do, however, is find a young, hungry coach–someone like a Paul Johnson, or a Jim Grobe, who relish turning around moribund programs. I like Grobe, personally. I’ve been a fan ever since he turned Ohio around in the late ’90s. And he did the same with Wake Forest, as well.

Do these things, and I think you’ll have more success than in previous years. It wouldn’t hurt to try, at any rate.

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