Despite its longest losing streak in nine years and the prospect of its first losing season in that span, the Navy football team is still an attractive commodity to the Big East. From all indications, it appears the feeling is mutual.
Though no formal invitations have been offered, the Big East took a significant step toward expansion when the presidents of the league's remaining seven schools voted Tuesday in Philadelphia to add members.
Houston, Southern Methodist and Central Florida for full membership, as well as Navy, Air Force and Boise State — considered the plum catch in this bid for survival — as football-only members.
Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said in a telephone interview Tuesday night that he had not spoken with Big East commissioner John Marinatto since the presidents' vote. "I know we're being considered," Gladchuk said.
Marinatto said earlier in the day in a statement released by the league that the presidents "voted unanimously" to extend the invitations and "I will be speaking to representatives of those schools shortly and look forward to announcing with them their acceptance into the Big East.
"The addition of these members will extend our reach, bring us to exciting new markets, strengthen our status within the BCS and lay the foundation for possible further expansion, all while maintaining the high quality and standards our conference is known for," Marinatto added.
The Big East will lose Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the Atlantic Coast Conference and is expected to lose West Virginia to the Big 12. Texas Christian, which announced last year that it would be joining the Big East, reversed field and announced its intentions last month to remain in a rapidly expanding Mountain West.
The attraction for Navy to the Big East stems in part from Gladchuk's concern in scheduling teams from larger conferences down the road. The Midshipmen played Ohio State three years ago and South Carolina this season and are scheduled to play at Penn State next season. Those types of national games could dwindle if the BCS conferences continue to expand.
"We don't want to ever become irrelevant," Gladchuk said in an interview with The Baltimore Sun last month.
The Big East will try to expand to 12 teams and set up a two-division format based on geography. It could put Navy in the same division with Rutgers, Connecticut and South Florida as well as potential new members Central Florida and Temple.
It is likely that Navy would continue its yearly matchups with Air Force, Army and Notre Dame. The date of the Army-Navy game, now pushed back to Dec. 10, could be moved up to accommodate the Midshipmen in the event that they were to make the Big East championship game.
Gladchuk said the attraction to the Big East has nothing to do with the controversial calls that went against the Midshipmen on the field this season. As an independent, Navy is affiliated with the ACC when it comes to using officials or replay officials for certain games. This year, the decisions by officials in at least two games have been costly.
In the Air Force game, officials from the Mountain West called Navy quarterback Kriss Proctor for taunting on his team's go-ahead touchdown in overtime. The Midshipmen's extra-point attempt from 35 yards was blocked, and Navy lost, 35-34, costing it a shot at the Commander in Chief's Trophy.
In the East Carolina game, officials from Conference USA ruled that wide receiver Matt Aiken dropped an apparent touchdown pass in the closing seconds that would have put Navy ahead. A replay official from the ACC wouldn't reverse the call — it appeared Aiken had stretched his body over the goal line before the ground caused him to lose possession — and told Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo he was not going to overrule the decision by Conference USA officials even if they ruled he had caught the pass.
"We've always been treated as if we were a member of the ACC [in terms of officiating," Gladchuk said. "When we've had the controversial calls this year, they've been quick to respond."
Navy takes a six-game losing streak and a 2-6 record into its game Saturday at home against Troy.
Report: Navy invited to Big East as football-only member
Air Force, Boise State also get football invitations; three others offered full membership