The Navy football team will be getting an early start on its 1997 schedule -- real early.
Because of scheduling conflicts with the San Diego Padres, San Diego State was forced to play its home opener against the Midshipmen at Qualcomm Stadium on Friday, Sept. 5, at 11: 30 a.m. PDT
"I think that favors us," Navy coach Charlie Weatherbie said. "My guys are used to getting up early in the morning for classes."
In fact, Weatherbie held a number of his preseason practices at 5: 30 a.m. to accommodate players taking summer courses.
San Diego State originally tried to schedule the game for the next afternoon, but Fox TV decided to schedule the Padres-Braves at that time, and Friday night at the stadium already was scheduled for baseball.
The early starting time has hurt advance ticket sales.
"We're doing a lot of special promotions," Aztecs publicist John Rosenthal said. "We're selling it like a Business Day Special."
With San Diego being a major city for Navy personnel and alumni, Rosenthal said he had a request for 4,000 tickets from Academy supporters in the area.
"Normally, for a Saturday home game, we'd expect to draw between 35,000 and 40,000," Rosenthal said. "Realistically, we're expecting half that number for a Friday afternoon."
The Mids, who had been all but ignored in recent years by television, save for their annual games against Notre Dame and Army, will be seen on TV five times this season.
Fox Sports Network will televise Navy's home games against Air Force, Oct. 11, and Temple, Nov. 8. The Mids also will appear against Duke on the Jefferson Pilot network, Sept. 27, on NBC against Notre Dame, Nov. 1, and on CBS in the season finale against Army, Dec. 6, at Giants Stadium.
Going 9-3 and winning a bowl game last year has obviously helped the Navy marketing department push season tickets. Advance sales have reached 13,000, just 500 short of the record set in 1985.
"Naturally, it starts with winning," assistant athletic director Eric Ruden said. "But another factor is that we began pushing season tickets this year in March rather than our usual June start. We're already 25 percent ahead of last year's numbers."
Of the six home games, only Air Force is close to a sellout.
Out of the depths
You won't find his name on the preseason depth chart, but Matt Harden is challenging holdovers Tim Cannada and Irv Dingle at fullback. In a recent scrimmage, Harden, a junior from Concord, Calif., rushed for 34 yards on five carries and impressed Weatherbie with his blocking.
Harden did not get any varsity playing time the past two seasons. His father, Tim, was co-captain of the 1974 Navy team.
In all the preseason hype revolving around senior quarterback Chris McCoy, it's easy to forget who is second string.
That is sophomore Steve Holley, a native of Dallas. Coincidentally, this is the same area that produced Ben Fay, who was McCoy's understudy the past two seasons and led the Mids' come-from-behind 42-38 victory over Cal in the Aloha Bowl.
The top preseason polls have overlooked Navy, but the Mids are rated 18th by CBS SportsLine, ahead of traditional powers Michigan, Alabama and Auburn.
Pub Date: 8/28/97