- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 16, 2004

San Francisco is home to the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and Barry Bonds. Memphis, Tenn., is synonymous with Graceland and the birth of a musical revolution called rock ‘n’ roll.

One of these cities also might be home to the Navy football team for a few days in late December.

As an independent, Navy (7-2) is a free agent in the bowl process. Currently, there are two open spots and the possibility of more. Athletic director Chet Gladchuk said yesterday eight bowls have expressed “genuine interest” in the Midshipmen.

“I can only react to what is on the table and as of [last night], that is nothing,” Gladchuk said. “I have to wait and see how it plays out.”

The Emerald Bowl in San Francisco and the Liberty Bowl in Memphis appear to be early favorites to land Navy. Because there are going to be only five eligible teams from the Pac-10, there is an open spot now for an at-large team in the Emerald Bowl.

Executive director Gary Cavalli said yesterday he would like to move quickly, possibly offering an invitation by the end of the weekend. He has that luxury, while other bowls might have to wait until after the first weekend in December to find out if their conference affiliations will be filled.

“I’d say Navy is at the top of our list,” Cavalli said. “We also have some attractive options from the ACC and the Big East.

“Their track record last year at the Houston Bowl was very impressive. They brought a lot of fans. There is all the pageantry and excitement involved with Navy. It’s a national program that typically does very well with TV ratings.”

Last season the Mids accepted an invitation to the Houston Bowl, their only option. This year there will be several, and it’s possible Navy could wait for offers that open in a week or two. Gladchuk, however, might not want to wait.

“We’d be pleased to get something put to bed as soon as possible,” he said.”

Liberty Bowl executive director Steve Ehrhart is stuck in a wait-and-see position. The Liberty Bowl normally pits the Mountain West champion against the Conference USA champion. Utah, however, is likely to earn a BCS berth and won’t be available to face likely C-USA champ Louisville.

The Liberty Bowl isn’t contractually obligated to invite the second-place team if Utah isn’t a possibility, so that’s where Navy could fit in. Utah won’t find out its BCS fate until Dec.5.

“Navy is definitely on our radar screen,” Ehrhart said. “We will be watching them closely the next two games. Our committee certainly knows Chet Gladchuk well. He’s one of the most respected athletic directors in the country. We have a retired admiral who is a past president and key member of our board.”

Other possibilities for Navy include the Las Vegas Bowl (if California earns a BCS bid), a return trip to Houston and the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando.

Navy played in the 1981 Liberty Bowl, losing to Ohio State 31-28. The Liberty Bowl also has a history with the service academies — the winner of the Commander In Chief’s trophy played in the game from 1989 to 1992. Air Force won the trophy all four years.

There are also plenty of reasons for Navy to like a trip to San Francisco.

“Everybody loves San Francisco,” Cavalli said. “Depending on the poll, it’s one of the top three cities in the world along with New York and Paris. We have a great facility in SBC Park. It works very well for football. We have a well-deserved reputation for taking care of the teams well. The programs that have been here are our best sellers. There is also a large naval contingent on the west coast.”

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