The debate about which collegiate football team has achieved the most over the years, well, that could go on for days.
There are teams such as Alabama, Southern California and LSU that have multiple national championships to their credit.
That’s not what Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo and his Midshipmen (8-4) are about.
Their goals are regularly preached and clearly laid out from Day 1.
“We’re not Alabama or LSU or anybody,” Niumatalolo said Tuesday at the Armed Forces Bowl introductory press conference. “We know who we are. Our goals are pretty simple and we try to keep things pretty plain and simple. Go to a bowl game and win the Commander-in-Chief Trophy. There are only three [football] teams that have the chance to go to the White House: the national champion collegiate football team, the NFL Super Bowl champion and the winner of the Commander-in-Chief Trophy.”
Navy punched its ticket to the White House on Saturday, beating Army 34-7 in a frosty, snow-covered game in Philadelphia.
Navy has a chance to complete its other goal when it takes the field at TCU’s Amon G. Carter Stadium to face Middle Tennessee State (8-4) in the 11th edition of the Armed Forces Bowl.
Navy’s participation in this Armed Forces Bowl will complete the trifecta of service academies playing in the bowl, making the it the first bowl game to host the three service academy teams.
However, the looming bowl matchup did not give reason to forgo pausing and reflecting on what Navy accomplished in beating rival Army on Saturday.
To the Midshipmen, and the other two Division I service academies, they won a sort of national championship.
“For our three programs, it’s everything,” Niumatalolo said. “It’s our No. 1 goal, and I’m sure it’s Air Force and Army’s, too. To be able to go there and be the guest of the president of the United States, you feel special as a program because for the hour that we are there you are the guest of the president. I think our guys realize not that many people have that opportunity.”
While both teams have played in important games leading up to the bowl game in Fort Worth, even Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill said he couldn’t describe the importance of the Army vs. Navy game or what the Commander-in-Chief Trophy means to the Midshipmen.
“They’ll understand it, but they truly won’t understand the feeling of it because they haven’t played in it,” Stockstill said of his team. “They know the importance of it.”
For Stockstill, this bowl game will be important to him because it is the first time in his career he will face a service academy. Thinking of what that means in a bowl dedicated to the celebration of those who serve the country has filled his thoughts since his team accepted the bowl bid.
“When we were selected to this bowl game and you start thinking about it, I get emotional, just because the history and tradition of Navy,” Stockstill said. “Then you throw in what these men and women do for me and my family, just makes it that more special and unique.”
All that being said, don’t count Navy out because of a post-Army hangover. Both coaches said that because of the kind of individuals who receive appointments to the Naval Academy, they will be motivated and ready to play Dec. 30.
“You’re talking about kids that are highly motivated,” Niumatalolo said. “Like I said, I’m overpaid as a coach. These are highly motivated kids at the United States Naval Academy. They recognize that their opportunities to put on the helmet comes to an end, and this is the last time for our seniors so we feel very, very honored and humbled to come to this bowl game and play Middle Tennessee.”