It is indeed true that every year, the college football regular season ends with Army facing off against Navy, on a day where all other college football teams and fans take the time to watch this one game and soak in everything that it means.
But what if we expanded that idea?
Sure, Army/Navy is the most high-profile football game involving service academies, but it’s absolutely not the only one. The full list of service schools with football programs includes:
- FBS – Army, Navy and Air Force (service academies), Texas A&M, and Virginia Tech
- FCS – Virginia Military Institute and Citadel
- Division II – University of North Georgia*
- Division III – the Coast Guard and Merchant Marine service academies as well as Norwich University, SUNY Maritime, Maine Maritime and Massachusetts Maritime.
I think it’s time to feature all of these service academy football programs as much as possible so that the men and women who go on to serve from these lesser-known academies can get just as much appreciation as the large swarm of cadets and seamen who are celebrated throughout the Army/Navy game.
It would be so much easier than you think.
*North Georgia doesn’t sponsor NCAA football
Division III Military College Showcase
This one would be the easiest, as there are two D-III service academies plus four D-III military/maritime colleges, which makes for nice and balanced scheduling.
Additionally, four of the six (Maine, Norwich, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine) are already members of the same conference (NEWMAC) who play each other annually.
Mass Maritime is actually in the NEWMAC for every sport except football, but still, plays both SUNY and Maine Maritime annually. SUNY Maritime belongs to the ECFC but plays Mass Maritime, Maine Maritime and Merchant Marine annually as well.
You could start off simply by shifting the existing matchups between these teams to September and giving them all a feature home on ESPNU (or CBS Sports Network or even ESPN+, you get the idea).
There are tons of lopsided football games in September, why not give some feature time to some athletes at the Division III level and their service member classmates who would otherwise never get it and are very deserving of it?
If you wanted you could round out the round robin, but the content is already there and just needs a little bit of packaging.
Division I Service Showcase
This one will require a bit more legwork, and has several potential avenues of varying appeal to varying demographics.
Option A – Final Weekend Extravaganza: Army/Navy becomes a full weekend of service-based football. On Friday night, Virginia Tech and Texas A&M face off. Saturday at noon will be the game between VMI and Citadel, and then Saturday primetime will feature the Army/Navy game.
This setup achieves a bunch of excitement with minimal effort. The TAMU/VT games will take some nudging to get scheduled, but it’s not like you’re asking them to play Kansas every season.
The other two games (VMI/Citadel and Army/Navy) already happen annually anyway, we’re just tweaking their scheduling to maximize exposure.
The expanded schedule gives an afternoon showcase to potential future servicemen at VMI and Citadel and also gives you an excuse to shift Army/Navy into primetime where it honestly belongs.
Traditionalists will be super pissed at having anything other than Army/Navy occur that weekend, but this isn’t just changing for the sake of change; this is an attempt to give as many future servicemen and women as possible the same national exposure that the folks at Army and Navy get every year.
Option B – The Alternating Showcase: Alright, so we don’t want to take away from Army/Navy too much. In this scenario, all three games still occur, but VT/TAMU occurs on whatever non-Army-Navy weekend they want, and the VMI/Citadel game alternates between being the lead-in for Army/Navy (even years) and the lead in for A&M/Tech (odd years). Same showcase is achieved, without stepping on too many tradition toes.
Option C – WHAT ABOUT AIR FORCE: Everything that we’ve discussed so far has done a great job of shining a highlight on every single service academy football program – except for the Falcons.
We can fairly easily work them into either option, though. We can add them into the Friday night portion of the double-header, or they can be the other game which alternates pairing with Army/Navy or TAMU/VT.
We also choose wisely with the game, as it needs to fit the theme. To that end, there are two Mountain West teams who have ROTC programs and who have as much history with the Falcons as Army or Navy: Colorado State and Wyoming.
These games would have the added bonus of having very high odds of being a good matchup. While there may not be as many servicemembers at the particular schools, it still fits very well with the theme.
Perhaps Air Force, CSU or Wyoming balks at this, since it would mean a game the weekend after the Mountain West title game, but I imagine they would be of the same mindset as Navy.
That is, they would gladly suffer a lack of a bye week before a nationally featured regular-season game if the cause was playing in the conference title game.
So there you have it. A two-pronged set-up that provides the future service members at every one of our service academies with an opportunity for national exposure that is similar to what those at Army and Navy get every year from their featured matchup.
All of our service members are equally deserving of our attention and respect on the few chances we get to give it to them, so we should be all for these showcase events that are intended for that purpose.