The College Football Playoff has found a way to include the annual Army vs. Navy game in its consideration. Neither team has participated in the national title chase in decades, but their unique scheduling could've thrown the Playoff system into a minor wreck if not accounted for.
What was the problem?
For the last several years, the annual Army-Navy game has taken place the Saturday after conference championships, making it the last game of the regular season. This year, it's slated for December 12, days after the Playoff committee will have named its four Playoff teams and filled out the other four New Year's Six bowls.
What does Army-Navy have to do with the Playoff bowls?
Longitme independent Navy joins the non-power American Athletic Conference this season and has a real chance to win it. This makes Navy eligible for the guaranteed non-power spot in the New Year's Six, which will often be the biggest and most lucrative honor a non-power can realistically contend for. Last year, the spot went to 11-2 Boise State, which beat Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl.
The concern was that Navy could clinch that bid and then lose to Army, thus leaving out a more deserving team. (Army is still independent, making it ineligible for a conference autobid and meaning it would have to rank around the top 10 in order to earn a spot, something the Black Knights haven't done since the 1950s.)
Because of this, some proposed moving Army-Navy from its traditional spot to earlier in the regular season.
What's the solution?
Playoff chairman Bill Hancock announced Tuesday that if Navy is in consideration, the committee will delay its announcements until after the Army-Navy game. It's the most sensible solution to this entire affair.
"I can say we're very pleased with the recommended outcome for Navy, and we're glad they addressed the potential situation," AAC commissioner Mike Aresco said to SB Nation. Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk declined to comment, recommending inquiries to Aresco and Hancock.
Who had the problem?
The Mountain West, for one. MWC commissioner Craig Thompson was vocal, calling for the game to be moved earlier in the season. MWC members like Boise State and Utah State are contenders to compete for that non-power bid, and the possibility of it going to a Navy team that hadn't even finished its schedule yet made his gripe legitimate.
"I've got a great relationship with Craig Thompson. Craig's a friend and we talk all the time. There's certainly some friendly competition, and with what Boise has built over the past seasons, they're probably the chief competition for us right now," Aresco said. "But you never know where the competition will come in the Group of Five. We've seen schools like [Conference USA's] Marshall and [the MAC's] Northern Illinois have great success recently."
The original game of the century
With the country at war and the dominance of the service academies over the rest of college football, the 1944 Army vs. Navy game was one of the most anticipated matchups in the history of the rivalry. The battle on the gridiron that became the stuff of legend.
Was Army-Navy ever in danger of moving?
Aresco declined to comment on if the game's date was even up for discussion, but Gladchuk told multiple media outlets in previous weeks that there was "no chance" the game would leave the second Saturday of December.
It's worth noting both Army-Navy and the AAC hold TV deals with CBS, a powerful figure in college sports. The game is a ratings success for CBS and creates national exposure for both academies, something that now benefits the AAC.
"Navy is a national school with a national fan base. The Army-Navy game is a sellout every year," Aresco said. "Navy's tradition is the best of the best, and they bring greater exposure to our conference. We're a work in progress right now, but we're growing, and we're getting our name out there more than ever."
What's the takeaway?
Bowls partnered with the Playoff have all kinds of power to preserve their traditions, and power conferences have arranged the postseason to their liking. But one of college football's traditions -- some might argue its best -- was able to refuse to bow to the power of the postseason, despite involving a non-power school and a small independent.