Disclaimer: For all of the “let’s concentrate on UConn crowd” out there, nothing written below will affect the outcome of the game on the field on Saturday. Pure speculation is one of the joys in sports and we’ll speculate here on what the corporate offices are thinking. We’ll return to talking about UConn on Saturday.
When it comes to business, and the business of big-time college football, perception of success can mean everything. The big power conferences are perceived as such because, among other things, they are able to fill their stadiums for big games.
The life of a small, non-power, conference can reflect failure as much as success as, for years, the Mid-American Conference has attracted regularly around 10,000 people to its title game at the cavernous Ford Field in Detroit.
That’s why the site of the first-ever AAC football championship game is so important to the league right now. They are only two possibilities, either at the site of West contenders Houston and Navy, and the bean counters in the league’s corporate offices in Providence, RI, have to be crossing their fingers and toes and hoping Navy wins and take the game to its home base in Maryland. For the other team, the league needs nearby Temple, bringing the nation’s fourth-largest TV market, Philadelphia, to the Dec. 5 (noon, ABC-TV) broadcast. Navy is located in the Washington, D.C. TV market, the ninth-largest but has the additional appeal of having a national fan base. Houston is the 10th-largest TV market.
For this dream matchup to happen, Navy will have to win at Houston and Temple would have to hold serve at home against UConn with both games coming up at the end of the week. (The only other way Temple can get in without beating the Huskies is in the unlikely event of winless UCF holding off visiting South Florida on Thanksgiving Day.)
A couple of reasons have the AAC getting goosebumps over that potential matchup. The game will be a likely sellout at the picturesque 34,000-seat Navy Marine Corps Stadium, one of the most beautiful venues in college football. The sight of a sold-out championship game, when so many other leagues have had trouble selling out championship venues, creates an additional aura of success to project to league TV viewers. Although the stadium seats 34,000, Navy often sells standing room seats and an AAC title game could easily exceed the 38,255 stadium attendance record set on Oct. 5, 2013 when the Midshipmen beat Air Force, 28-10.
Any seats Navy is unable to sell will likely be gobbled up by Temple fans, who traveled 20,000 to RFK Stadium for an Eagle Bank Bowl at UCLA in 2009. They will not be able to get that many tickets this time, but it should be an overflow. The game would feature the G5’s best Heisman Trophy candidate, Navy’s Keenan Reynolds, against a top-notch defense led by a likely first-team All-American linebacker in Temple’s Tyler Matakevich.
When it comes to the business of college football, nothing projects success like sold-out stadiums and TV ratings and Temple at Navy figures to project that image best and, in the case of a fledgling conference championship game, image is everything.
Tomorrow: The Competition