Army Athletic Director Boo Corrigan is enthused Notre Dame -- a plum opponent for any school's schedule -- is negotiating to renew a historic football rivalry with West Point, but when discussing Army's scheduling philosophy, he points out he doesn't have to search hard or woo opponents.
In fact, candidates come calling on the Black Knights of the Hudson.
"Our phone rings on a regular basis with people that want to play us," Corrigan said. "They know who we are and they have a great appreciation for the military and our young men and women. They appreciate what they're doing and what they'll do after graduation."
The impending announcement Notre Dame and Army will schedule a game as early as 2016 was a chance also for Corrigan to discuss future schedules as he enters his second football season since he was hired Feb. 1, 2011.
Corrigan wants an emphasis on home games at Michie Stadium, a steady diet of regional opponents, national road trips, opponents of similar student body size and elite academic standards and, of course, Army and Air Force.
He was quick to point out the 2012 schedule, similar to BCS schools with leverage, features seven home games: Sept. 15, Northern Illinois; Sept. 29, Stony Brook; Oct. 6, Boston College; Oct. 13, Kent State; Oct. 27, Ball State; Nov. 3, Air Force; and Nov. 17, Temple. All seven games are at 38,000-seat Michie Stadium.
Historically, Army has moved games with big-name opponents such as Notre Dame to Yankee Stadium, but Corrigan said the new Notre Dame deal will call for the Irish to visit scenic Michie. The move to larger venues (and bigger paydays) might have left the general public with the misperception Michie isn't suited for such games.
You've got to work hard to find a better place to watch a football game than Michie Stadium.
- Army Athletic Director Boo Corrigan
"You've got to work hard to find a better place to watch a football game than Michie Stadium," said Corrigan, whose comment is backed up ESPN and Sports Illustrated reviews ranking Michie among the nation's finest venues.
But that's not to say Army won't play future games at New Yankee Stadium or even MetLife Stadium, the new home for the New York Giants and New York Jets.
"We still have a great relationship with Yankee Stadium," Corrigan said.
Army, which has released future schedules through 2014, is playing Boston College in 2012 at Michie, but the 2014 Boston College home game is slated for Yankee Stadium.
As Corrigan suggested with his comment that Army's phone is always ringing, finding big-name opponents to play won't be difficult if Army chooses. Michigan coach Brady Hoke, who once aspired to be a Secret Service agent, has frequently expressed his admiration for the military academies.
Hoke was at San Diego State when the Army-San Diego State series was scheduled, although he was gone to Michigan by the time last year's game was played at Michie. This year, Hoke's Wolverines are playing Air Force at Michigan Stadium.
Corrigan adds a feature of Army's regional home-and-home games with Rutgers, Temple and Boston College is they are sites within Northeastern driving distances. There also is the Army-Navy game that has been rotating between NFL stadiums in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, DC (FedEx Field in Landover, Md.).
Corrigan adds sprinkling in traveling dates far and wide nationally is important.
Army hits the road in 2012 to San Diego State (Sept. 8) on the West Coast and Wake Forest in North Carolina (Sept. 22); in 2013 to Hawaii (Nov. 30); and in 2014 to Stanford in the Bay Area (Sept. 13) and Wake Forest again (Sept. 20).
"We want to provide a great experience for our cadets," Corrigan said. "They get to have some great memories in their time here. We want the opportunity to play in different parts of the country to provide a bigger picture of who we are."
With schedules mapped out as many as 10 years in advance, it's not easy to judge what kind of opponent Army is scheduling down the road.
For example, Stanford might still be a perennially losing program if it hadn't hired Jim Harbaugh in 2007 to turn around fortunes. The Cardinal flirted with a BCS bowl appearance last season before finishing 11-2 and No. 7 in the nation with No. 1 draft pick Andrew Luck at quarterback and Harbaugh's successor, David Shaw.
When Army lost to Boston College 37-17 in the 2007 season, the Black Knights faced a team ranked as high as No. 2 before the Eagles finished No. 12. But in 2012, they're slated to face a 2012 Boston College club coming off a 4-8 season.
Other future Army opponents targeted that fit the profile for regional games or games with institutions of similar student body size and elite academic standards that Corrigan mentioned -- without disclosing a date -- include Syracuse and Duke.
The home-and-home games with Air Force at Michie are a given as part of the Commander-in-Chief's trophy, although Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo raised eyebrows in January when he said in an ESPN story he'd rather keep Army and Notre Dame and not worry about playing Air Force and the Commander-in-Chief's trophy. Niumatalolo was commenting on Navy's new schedule demands to play a full Big East schedule upon joining the conference in 2015 (if the Big East is still in business by then as a football conference).
The Big East courted Army along with Navy in its quest to replace recent defections to the ACC (Pitt and Syracuse) and Big 12 (TCU), but Corrigan said West Point prefers its independent status.
"We're comfortable with where we are as an independent," he said. "We have the ability to schedule games on a regional basis as well as national games. We will always maintain our games with Air Force and Army."
Army tried the conference affiliation from 1998 to 2004 in Conference-USA in pursuit of TV dollars. But the Black Knights suffered on the field, never winning more than three games in the span, including 1-11 in 2002 and 0-13 in 2003.
Best-selling author John Feinstein wrote in January in a Washington Post article that he felt Navy was making a mistake joining the Big East. Feinstein, who wrote about the Army-Navy football rivalry in his 1995 book, A Civil War, said in his Post article he advised Army against joining Conference-USA when he was asked his opinion as early as 1995.
Feinstein explained a conference schedule might prevent Navy from playing a 4-4-4 schedule. By that, he meant for military academies to best position themselves to earn bowl eligibility, they need a schedule of four certain wins, four winnable games and four difficult games -- at most.
Corrigan's resume includes three years at Navy as an associate athletic director, but he preferred to limit his answers to Army's philosophy toward conference affiliation.
"We need to make the best decision for Army," he said. "We're in a good place right now."
Another area where Army plans to stand pat is sticking to a 12-game schedule in 2013. By playing Hawaii, NCAA rules permit anyone facing Hawaii to schedule a 13th game.
"We're not going to add another game," Corrigan said. "We have the option, but we don't want to use it with all the demands on our cadets at West Point and the physical demands of recovering to play a 13th game.
"We want to keep the cadet experience at West Point at the forefront. It's hard enough to go to West Point as an average cadet. To play a 13th game would be irresponsible."
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