The proposed marriage between the Big East Conference and the Navy football program has been put on hold — indefinitely.
As the league appears set to announce its plans Wednesday to add five schools, Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said Tuesday night that "there were too many obstacles" to overcome for the Midshipmen to join for football only as early as 2014.
Among the roadblocks, Gladchuk said, were Navy's bowl tie-ins through 2016, an existing television deal with CBS Sports that runs through the 2018 season and its game contracts with a number of schools going for several years, including one with Notre Dame though 2026.
But Gladchuk said that once some of those contracts can be honored or Navy can negotiate its way out of others, the Midshipmen would "most likely" join the Big East if the league is still interested.
According to multiple media reports this week, the Big East is expected to announce Wednesday the addition of Houston, Central Florida and Southern Methodist for all sports as well as Boise State and San Diego State for football only.
CBS Sportsline reported Tuesday that Navy could join the Big East "as soon as next week," but that timetable seemed unlikely given the myriad contracts Navy now has to examine to see which give the Midshipmen some, if any, room to negotiate.
Navy's schedule is complete through the 2014 season, with 10 games set for 2015. Among the 2015 games are three against potential Big East opponents: Air Force, SMU and San Diego State.
The biggest issue could be its contract with CBS, which has rights to televise the Army-Navy game through 2018 and now also televises the Navy-Air Force game. The Big East has a contract with ESPN but will begin new contract negotiations next year.
The conference has been in turmoil since Syracuse and Pittsburgh announced in September their intentions to leave what is is currently a 12-team football league for the Atlantic Coast Conference. Subsequently, West Virginia announced its plans to leave the Big East for the Big 12 and Texas Christian, which had agreed last year to join the Big East, said it was joining the Big 12 instead.
The Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger was the first media organization to report news of the impending announcement.
Navy, which has always played as an independent in football, has yearly contracts with the two other service academies, Army and Air Force, as well as Notre Dame. Air Force, a member of the Mountain West Conference, was also reported to be in the Big East's sights and, like Navy, is now putting its plans on hold.
The Big East, which would be left with only five football schools if it didn't expand, is desperate to hold on to its automatic Bowl Championship Series bid, but won't have the 12 teams it needs to play a conference championship game in 2013. Pittsburgh and Syracuse are expected to join the ACC beginning in 2014 unless they can negotiate themselves out of the Big East sooner.
Gladchuk said he is not disappointed to remain an independent at least through the 2014 season, if not longer.
"We have flourished as an independent, and we will continue to flourish as an independent," Gladchuk said. "The Big East has to move forward with expansion, but for now Navy cannot move forward with them."
Big East commissioner John Marinatto was unavailable for comment Tuesday night.
This marks the first season in nearly a decade that Navy (4-7) won't be playing in a bowl game. The team's first losing season since 2002 will culminate Saturday with the Army-Navy game at FedEx Field in Landover.
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