Let's see, isn't there an Atlantic Coast Conference school nearby that Navy could schedule?
It's been 30 years since Navy and Maryland last played. It was a haphazard rivalry to begin with, and the 1964 game, replete with an obscene gesture by Terps halfback Jerry Fishman and fights in the stands at Byrd Stadium, added to the chill between the state's only major-college teams.
The majority of the men in the brigade then are retired. Mark Duffner and Charlie Weatherbie were 12 and 10 years old, respectively. Isn't it time the two schools kissed, made up, and in the spirit of cost containment play each other, be it home and home, at Memorial Stadium, RFK or on the Route 50 median?
Athletic director Debbie Yow said that Maryland "would love to play Navy," but she knows that's about as likely as Joe Smith tearing up his Golden State contract and coming back for those last two years with the Terps.
"At the present time, we're scheduled through the year 2002," Navy athletic director Jack Lengyel said. "We're a national institution, and we're obligated to schedule games across the country. We're going to follow through on schedules that were made 10 years ago. I'm never going to say never [to Maryland]. I don't think there are any great obstacles in our way."
Actually, there are several.
The Navy brass will complain about Maryland's lower academic standards, ignoring the fact that the Terps are admitting the same players that get into other ACC schools and West Virginia, another future Mids opponent.
The truth is that Navy doesn't want another big game on its schedule, and surely that's a concern that Maryland understands. Navy hasn't had a winning season since 1982. Since 1985, Maryland has produced one winner. Administrators at both schools have spoken about giving their coaches a chance to succeed, and backed it up by watering down the schedules.
Navy routinely plays two Division I-AA schools, and there was a time in the late 1980s when Towson State appeared on one of the Mids' future schedules.
Notre Dame could have more losses than the Mids when the two play in South Bend on Nov. 4, and that's as attributable to the schedule as it is to Weatherbie.
Maryland? In 1990, the last time the Terps went to a bowl, they lost nonconference games at Michigan and Penn State. Alabama-Birmingham, which will move up to I-A, and Northern Illinois are the nonconference behemoths invading Byrd next year. In 1997, Temple will be one of the nonconference opponents.
It's a short walk from Academy grounds to the State House, where the governor and Senate president wear their allegiance to College Park on their sleeves. Despite annual pleas from Louis L. Goldstein, honorable comptrol- ler of "the great state of Merlin," this isn't North Carolina, where politicos forced North Carolina and N.C. State to play East Carolina.
There is one hope, one bowl game without conference tie-ins for both berths: Maryland-Navy in the Poulan Weed Eater Independence Bowl.
He's got No. 4 Colorado off to a 5-0 record, so Rick Neuheisel, 34, is the newest darling on the coaching circuit. He'd have to average 10 wins a year and work another 40 years to match Grambling's Eddie Robinson, 76, who should notch career win No. 400 tomorrow against Mississippi Valley State.
"I'm a better coach than what the record shows," said Robinson, who has a 2-2 team and too many media demands. "If I can spend more time with the team, I believe we can score and stop the other people."
The Big East is getting slammed, justifiably, for its futility this season, but the Atlantic Coast Conference isn't exactly threatening the SEC or Big Ten for major-conference superiority.
The ACC is 12-7 in nonconference games. Four of the wins are over I-AA opponents, and the other eight victims are Tulane, Rutgers, Army, West Virginia, Louisville, Central Florida, Navy and Ohio University.
The ACC's most impressive nonconference win to date was Maryland's handling of 2-3 West Virginia.
Game to watch
No. 5 Ohio State vs. No. 12 Penn State
Where: Beaver Stadium, University Park, Pa., noon
TV: Chs. 2, 7
Last time: The Buckeyes were grumpy on their departure from Happy Valley last year, when the Nittany Lions rolled, 63-14. It was 34-0 at the half. "I don't think you can erase those bad memories," said quarterback Bobby Hoying, who was intercepted three times. "We have to realize we're a totally different team and we've had a year's more work to get better."
Winless in conference: Ohio State has walked over Boston College, Washington, Pitt and Notre Dame, but it isn't any closer to the Rose Bowl than it was when camp opened. This is its first Big Ten game. Penn State is 0-1 in the conference, as the nation's longest I-A win streak ended with a 17-9 loss to Wisconsin last week.
By the numbers: Wally Richardson had a school-record 33 completions against Wisconsin, but the Nittany Lions were shut out in the first half for the first time in three years. Besides Kerry Collins, Penn State also misses Ki-Jana Carter and Kyle Brady.
Bottom line: Penn State gets No. 7 Michigan at home, and the Nittany Lions can still get back to Pasadena. "It's still possible to win the conference with one loss, but it would be really hard to do it with two," Richardson said.