Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said yesterday that the academy's ticket sales for the Emerald Bowl are approaching 14,000 without a real surge from the West Coast, where the game will be played.
"We're doing real well with a lot of momentum," Gladchuk said. "I think we can get to 18,000. Our target was 20,000, but 18 might be a little more realistic."
About 25,000 fans were behind Navy at the Houston Bowl a year ago, the vast majority purchasing tickets through the school's outlets. But SBC Park, the home of the San Francisco Giants, holds only 37,000 for football, so matching the total for Houston's Reliant Stadium, which is nearly twice as big, is not necessary.
"We'll still be one of the best non-BCS traveling teams," Gladchuk said. "We're very confident we can deliver."
By contrast, New Mexico, Navy's opponent, is targeting 7,000 tickets.
Eric Ruden, Navy's associate athletic director for external relations, said a massive campaign via brochures, telephone and the Internet, strong support from the top Navy brass, and activities planned surrounding the game have contributed to the response.
"We've got about 3,000 from the state of California so far and we're hoping for more," Ruden said. "There are 5,000 Navy alumni within three hours' driving of San Francisco."
Helping the campaign is a program in which alumni and Navy fans can purchase tickets to donate to current midshipmen. The bowl committee is also arranging for discount programs on items like lodging, transportation and restaurants. The goal is to get 2,000 members of the brigade to the game.
"Our alumni out there have been requesting for years for us to get to the West Coast," Ruden said. "Well, here we are."
Navy has not played on the West Coast since visiting San Diego State in 1997. It has games scheduled at California (2006) and Stanford (2007).
Johnson proves popular
Navy coach Paul Johnson spent part of last week denying reports that he was headed for the job at the University of Mississippi. Instead, he was in North Carolina helping his mother move into a new home.
A hot property in college football because of Navy's success the past two seasons, Johnson's name invariably is bandied about whenever there is a vacancy.
But he signed a contract extension last fall that runs through 2009.
Time for tests
The Midshipmen resumed practice Monday after a week off following their resounding victory over Army, but it isn't easy to concentrate on football.
"It's tough practice time," Johnson said, "because they're in the middle of finals [which run through Friday]."
In addition, the cold wave that has swept into the area has made early evening drills chilling.
On the run
New Mexico coach Rocky Long and his offensive assistants visited the academy last spring for some discussions and film study about the option attack. The result is the Emerald Bowl figures to be a running battle.
"That's their identity," Johnson said. "They're right beside us in passing offense [Navy is 116th nationally, New Mexico 115th], so they're a running team."