- The Washington Times - Monday, November 7, 2005

Navy’s football team has some experience playing in an inaugural bowl game in San Diego: The Midshipmen defeated Brigham Young 23-16 in the first Holiday Bowl in 1978.

The board of directors of the new Poinsettia Bowl hope Navy will help out again.

Bowl representatives from the Poinsettia and Liberty bowls were in attendance Saturday at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium for the Mids’ 49-21 win against Tulane, courting Navy for their postseason games.

Both bowls have at-large spots and won’t have to wait for a conference to not fulfill its commitment. The past two seasons Navy has had to wait for spots to open up.

The Poinsettia Bowl is Dec.22 at Qualcomm Stadium, and San Diego boasts the largest contingent of Naval and Marine Corps personnel in the country.

“This is just a golden opportunity … to coalesce that regional population of not only active duty but alumni and retired personnel,” said Peter F. Hedley, a member of the Poinsettia board of directors. “But also to have the image of the Naval Academy kicking off a new bowl game in San Diego with the same image they gave us in 1978.”

A regional interest for Navy also exists at the Liberty Bowl, which is Dec.31 in Memphis, Tenn. Naval Support Activity Mid-South is a base located in Millington, a suburb of Memphis. Captain Helen F. Dunn, the chief of staff at the Naval Academy, was the commanding officer at the base before coming to Annapolis.

From 1989 to 1992 the winner of the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy was granted a spot in the Liberty Bowl, but Air Force won the trophy each season. Navy did play in the 1981 Liberty Bowl, losing 31-28 to Ohio State.

“Because of our patriotic theme of the Liberty Bowl and because Navy is back on the map as a national school and a national interest, that is why we’re excited about looking hard at Navy,” Liberty Bowl executive director Steve Ehrhart said.

Hedley was willing to go a step further. The Poinsettia Bowl wants to develop a long-term relationship with both Navy and Army.

“We really want to emphasize we’re not here visiting the Naval Academy for just this year,” Hedley said. “The Naval Academy has an option that when they reach six wins, we’re guarantying them a bowl berth in San Diego. They’re not going to have to worry about a seventh game, or anything else. When they hit six, they are welcome. The door is open and the welcome mat is out.

“We want the Naval Academy and we want them the afternoon they make their sixth win.”

Navy (5-3) needs one more win to be eligible and finishes the season with Notre Dame (6-2), Temple (0-10) and Army (2-6). The Mids, coming off trips to Houston and Emerald bowls, never have gone to bowls in three consecutive seasons.

“I’m sure [the players] think about it,” Navy coach Paul Johnson said. “We talked about it on Monday that [Tulane] was an important game if we have aspirations that way, but that’s the last time we talked about it.”

Navy’s opponent in the Poinsettia Bowl would be from the Mountain West. The conference does not have a pecking order but also has contracts with the Las Vegas and Emerald bowls. Texas Christian (9-1) has clinched the conference title, and there are five teams behind the Horned Frogs at either 5-4 or 4-5.

The Conference USA champion would be opposite the Mids in the Liberty Bowl.

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