With conferences making scheduling decisions, the face of Notre Dame and Navy comes down to the leaders of the AAC.
It’s become rampant in the FCS, starting with the Ivy League, as conferences have postponed fall sports. Meanwhile, in the Power 5, the discussion has been around how the Power 5 conferences will handle their schedules, with the B1G 10 and PAC-12 cancelling their out of conference games.
One lament of the times is the loss of rivalry games like the USC and Stanford games. There’s been fear about losing more great rivalry games, like the Navy game, which already had to be moved from Dublin to Annapolis. Oddly enough, this will be the first time the two ever meet in Annapolis. That’s if the the game can occur of course.
Now, obviously, everyone wants this game to happen. No one wants to lose the Notre Dame-Navy game. However, there is a reality in the modern era to come to terms with, Navy is in a conference. This means that they aren’t in charge of their own scheduling this year. If the AAC decides not to have out of conference games, Navy will have to follow suit. If the AAC says their teams can play one out of conference game, then Notre Dame still won’t play Navy, because the Midshipmen have their rivals in West Point to attend to first and foremost.
Now, it should be pointed out that the AAC has not cancelled, and does not want to lose their out of conference games. In fact, they almost can’t afford to lose their out of conference games. The AAC may promote themselves as a Power 6 conference, but they still make Group of 5 money. They make $7 million from their annual media deal. That’s it (it’s also by far the most of any G5 conference). Now, if they don’t deliver as many games over the course of the season, that number is bound to drop. Add in the loss of revenue from ticket sales, and the reality is money is much tighter than usual.
The AAC is also in the unique position of trying to convince the rest of the college football world of its worth. The MAC, C-USA, Sun Belt, and every team but Boise State in the Mountain West have accepted their place in the pecking chain. The AAC, however, is built on the remains of the dead Big East conference. They want the respect they had as the Big East, when they were an automatically qualifying conference. The poster child for the AAC’s calls for respect has been UCF, who declared themselves National Champions after being left out of the 2017-18 College Football Playoff, despite being the only undefeated team.
It’s all well and good to say you’re a power conference, but you need to prove it on the field. Losing out of conference games gives you less opportunity to do so. Memphis lost a game against Purdue, Cincinnati lost a game against Nebraska. The conference could have looked very good in those two very winnable games. Now, the AAC doesn’t want to lose anymore games.
In this respect, Notre Dame is lucky. The AAC wants the Notre Dame-Navy game to happen. They want eyes on one of their programs, and on the off-chance Navy wins, even better.
It’s because of this historic desire from both programs, and the AAC’s need for games like the Notre Dame-Navy game, that there’s little need to worry about the game being kicked off as scheduled in Annapolis.