Navy remains committed to an unsettled Big East

Navy is still on board for Big East football in 2015.

The Midshipmen remain committed to joining the unsettled
conference for football only, starting in 2015. Navy has been
playing football since 1879 without conference affiliation until it
made the decision last year to join a Big East – a league that has
undergone a massive facelift in 15 months.

”Right now, nothing’s changed in terms of our attitude or
ambition in terms of joining in `15,” Athletic Director Chet
Gladchuk said Wednesday. ”We’re just going to see how it all
unfolds.”

Gladchuk was in Philadelphia to promote the 113th Army-Navy game
on Dec. 8 at Lincoln Financial Field. The U.S. Naval Academy agreed
last year to give up more than 130 years of football independence
to join a conference that is in the middle of a massive overhaul.
Louisville on Wednesday became the fourth school in 15 months and
seventh in the past decade to leave the Big East for the ACC. The
Big East also lost Rutgers last week. The reinvented conference
added Tulane and East Carolina this week.

Though both schools are bolting for different conferences,
Louisville plays at Rutgers on Thursday night with the conference’s
bid to the Bowl Championship Series berth on the line. While
Gladchuk said the caliber of schools departing the Big East is,
”not necessarily what we envisioned,” he said the Midshipmen
could no longer continue as an independent, and he believes the
conference could still fill their needs in terms of scheduling and
desirable TV deals.

”Navy wants to remain relevant as a program with national
stature,” he said. ”We know we’ve got to be affiliated with a
conference. That’s why the Big East right now is our
direction.”

The Midshipmen (7-4) secured a bid to play a Pac-12 team in the
Fight Hunger Bowl on Dec. 29 in San Francisco. The Big East will
allow Navy to maintain its annual rivalries with Army, Air Force
and Notre Dame, and that the Army-Navy game will still be the
season finale for both teams, regardless of when a future Big East
championship game is played.

Ken Niumatalolo has coached the Midshipmen in four other bowl
games since 2007. He has Navy back in a bowl after a 5-7 record
last season.

He’s pitched the idea of playing in the Big East to recruits but
remained concerned the shifting landscape among the major
conferences could still come back to bite Navy.

”We’re trying to get ready for our big game,” he said. ”But
that’s in the back of our mind, where’s our program going?”

For now, the only answer is Philadelphia. Navy plays Army with
the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy on the line for the first time
since 2005. The trophy is awarded to the team with the best record
in games between the three service academies. Both teams have
defeated Air Force. Navy has a whopping 10-game winning streak
against its biggest rival in its biggest game of the season.

But the question looms, will the Big East still be the right fit
for Navy in three more years?

”We’re trying to improve our facilities, we’re trying to build
up our infrastructure, we’re trying to get ready to go,”
Niumatalolo said. ”My only question is, if we don’t go to the Big
East, what happens to us? Is it just going to be those five big
conferences and everyone else becomes I-AA football?”

The Midshipmen were more concerned Wednesday with the health of
freshman quarterback Ralph Montalvo. Niumatalolo said Montalvo
remained in a medically-induced coma after he was critically
injured in a car accident near his home last week in Florida.

”Some days his signs are better, sometimes his signs are not as
good,” Niumatalolo said. ”He has a wonderful family that’s been
very supportive of him at the hospital. Hopefully, he’s having a
good day today.”

Navy also said there was a chance Montalvo could be brought out
of the coma on Friday. He received his Army-Navy jersey the team
sent him and his father told the school that would be the second
thing he saw on Friday, after his mother.

Follow Dan Gelston on Twitter: https://twitter.com/APGelston