"All this bowl talk is premature unless we beat Tulane [tomorrow]," said Navy athletic director Jack Lengyel. "You have to win at least six games against Division I schools to qualify for a bowl, and right now we have only five."
Even if the Midshipmen improve to 7-2 by beating the visiting Green Wave, a bowl invitation could hinge on defeating still-unbeaten Army in the season finale Dec. 7.
But simply the idea of going to a bowl is heady stuff for Navy, which last played in the postseason in 1981, losing to Ohio State in the Liberty Bowl, 31-28.
"We're definitely keeping our eyes on Navy, and we've had conversations with Mr. Lengyel and their coach, Charlie Weatherbie," said Rick Holland, chairman of the Independence Bowl, which is played in Shreveport, La. "We'll be scouting [Navy's] game in Georgia Tech next week."
The Independence Bowl, which guarantees $850,000 to each school, is the only bowl game that can choose an independent team as one of its participants, matching it against a fifth pick from the Southeastern Conference.
"We'll be looking for a team that will form the best marriage with our SEC selection," Holland said.
"We still have a lot of possibilities -- schools like Wyoming, which currently has only one loss. And Notre Dame is still sitting out there," added Holland, while admitting the chances of landing the Fighting Irish are rather remote.
"The main criteria is finding a school that really wants to come here," Holland said. "And then, of course, bringing a lot of supporters with them.
"It's better for our community if the independent school is more than a day's travel away, so that it spends some time and money in our hotels and restaurants. Being the smallest community [pop. 300,000] of all the major bowls, we can outdo just about anyone in hospitality. It becomes a complete celebration in honoring the visiting teams and their fans."
Holland said he will consult the bowl's sponsor -- Poulan Weed-Eater -- and ESPN about his choices before making a final decision.
"We have to have a strong partnership with the sponsor and ESPN, and we will discuss the different teams' strengths and weaknesses and how they will impact on the markets. But we have the luxury of not having to rush our decision."
Because of its long absence from a bowl game, Navy officials likely would jump at an invitation from the Independence Bowl.
Key loss on sideline
It will be difficult replacing offensive coordinator Paul Johnson, who has accepted the head coaching job at Georgia Southern for next year. Playing in Johnson's imaginative flexbone, the Mids rank third in the nation in rushing offense and 26th in overall offense.
Pub Date: 11/15/96