4-1 Navy is limited on bowl options Midshipmen's only shot for now is Independence

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The Navy football team may be destined for its first bowl game since 1981, but, at least at the moment, there is only one option available.

Under the College Football Alliance's new arrangements, independent Navy's only sure possibility is the Independence Bowl at Shreveport, La., where one spot is locked in for the Southeastern Conference's fifth-place team and the other selection is made at the discretion of the bowl committee.

"That is the only one with an open end for us," said Navy athletic director Jack Lengyel. "Otherwise, we have to wait and see what happens."

Six Division 1-A victories are required for any team to appear in a bowl game. That criterion won't necessarily be fulfilled by fifth- and sixth-place teams from major conferences, thus opening the alternatives for selection committees.

Lengyel reasons that a service academy would have to win at least seven I-A games to be weighed seriously.

"They could take you at 6-5, but the chances are extremely unlikely," he said. "I think we'd have Lengyel to win at least seven to be considered for a fallout bowl."

Navy has a 4-1 record and an impressive victory over Air Force on the road last weekend. On paper, the Midshipmen figure to win at least three of their remaining six games, but one would be against Division I-AA Delaware.

That means a bowl bid might be riding on the annual Army-Navy game, with Army already 5-0.

"I'm concerned about the Alliance closing in bowls," said Lengyel. "I'm hoping they rework those contracts and not give fifth- and sixth-place teams automatic bowls."

Only Army, Navy and Notre Dame remain as major independents, and the Irish, with their huge nationwide following, were a lock for the alliance.

Lengyel says that, under the current circumstances, smaller schools in Division I-A leagues like the Mid-American Conference and Big West will drop to Division I-AA in the future, leaving only the power brokers from the top-level conferences in I-A.

And, if Army joins the USA Conference, Navy would be isolated as the only major independent.

It was believed that Navy might be eligible for the Haka Bowl, which is to be played in New Zealand, but the Western Athletic Conference just signed a contract to send its third-place team there.

And, the bowl is having funding problems, so it may not get off the ground.

"It's really too early to talk bowls because we're not even halfway through the season," said Lengyel. "But we certainly want to be in the hunt and we're discussing our options."

In Navy's last bowl game, the Midshipmen lost to Ohio State, 31-28, in the 1981 Liberty Bowl in Memphis. That was the third postseason appearance in four years for the George Welsh-coached team.

Pub Date: 10/16/96

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