The Washington Times - September 23, 2011, 08:24AM

There was plenty that couldn’t get crammed into today’s dead-tree story on Navy and the possibility the Midshipmen could join a football conference.

Coach Ken Niumatalolo had plenty to say on the topic, and he was his usual thoughtful self.

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“We’ve got our eye on what’s out there,” Niumatalolo said. “I’ve kind of got the analogy that we’re in a house eating and we have to feed our kids right now, but there’s a fire outside the house. So we have an imminent need to feed our family, but there’s a fire that’s about to burn down our house, so we have to make sure we take care of both.”

The short-term issue Niumatalolo is referring to is next week’s game against Air Force, which understandably occupies quite a bit of his attention at this point.

But he also knows it is important to think about how things might stand five years down the road.

“If any of that stuff happens, what are our alternatives,” Niumatalolo asked. “Are there going to be these big megaconferences and then the Patriot League? Nobody knows the answer. We’d like to stay where we’re at. We feel like we have a pretty good formula, but that might not be a choice tomorrow or next week or whenever. I guess we have to see how things go.”

Ever the realist, Niumatalolo knows Navy’s slim margin for error would shrink even more if a conference does most of the school’s scheduling for it. On the flip side, he wondered whether there would be a split of the current top tier into a group of 65 and a group of 66 through 120. If there was, would anyone outside the top conference demand any attention or prestige?

“Believe me, I have not forgotten who we are,” Niumatalolo said. “Some people ask ‘Do you want to go to a BCS conference or could you be in this league?’ That’s scary. We know who we are. But do we go that route or are we in I-AA. I don’t think anybody knows that, but I think it’s important for the recruits and for our fans to know that we’d like to be a relevant program.”

Patrick Stevens