Navy to play in San Diego's Poinsettia Bowl


Navy has accepted an invitation to play in the first Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 22 in San Diego.

The game will pit the Midshipmen (6-4) against an opponent to be determined from the Mountain West Conference, most likely Colorado State (6-5). Navy beat an MWC member, New Mexico, 34-19, in last year's Emerald Bowl in San Francisco.

"They are committed to us in every way possible," said Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk, who informed the team after a rainy practice at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium yesterday. "So, we're not going to wait any longer. We're going to move forward and start selling tickets."

With a huge naval presence in San Diego, the academy expects to bring 20,000 supporters to the game, which, because of the date, will allow the Midshipmen to be home for Christmas and New Year's Day.

"There are thousands and thousands of Navy people out there, and many ships will be in there for the Christmas holidays," he said. "And it's a first-class facility [Qualcomm Stadium] in a first-class city."

Contingent on bowl eligibility, Navy has also received what is believed to be an unprecedented bonus: the guarantee of a second appearance in the bowl within three years.

"We will determine what year," Gladchuk said. "As an independent, we thought this was a big part of the deal. There were other opportunities, but this was the best one."

The Liberty Bowl and Motor City Bowl were also considering Navy, but the former is expected to go for Fresno State after its performance against top-ranked USC last weekend.

The Poinsettia Bowl, which kicks off at 10:30 p.m., has a guaranteed payoff of $750,000, with residuals that could mean up to $150,000 more.

In addition to the enthusiasm wrought by Navy's school-record third consecutive bowl appearance, the general feeling among the players and coaches was relief. With the bowl bid secured, the Midshipmen can now concentrate entirely on their next opponent, Army, on Dec. 3.

"I'm glad we got the news now," said quarterback Lamar Owens, the co-captain of the team. "Our athletic director did a great job of getting this out of the way early. This is plenty of time to get our focus back on Army."

"Army is always going to be our biggest game of the season," said the other co-captain, defensive lineman Jeremy Chase, who is hoping for a San Diego assignment after he leaves the academy. "It doesn't change everything that we're going to a bowl game. Beating Army is a big deal around here.

"But with the amount of naval personnel in San Diego, we're going to have so much support there. Besides playing at the academy, this is one of the best places we could play."

Coach Paul Johnson said he was "excited" that this team has achieved another of its goals, but that, "We'll put it on the back burner after today. No question where our focus needs to be and will be."

Poinsettia Bowl officials were aggressive in their pursuit of the Midshipmen, who inaugurated another game in San Diego, the 1978 Holiday Bowl. They rallied from a 16-3 deficit to beat Brigham Young, 23-16, in that one.

"We are hoping we can build a long-term relationship in some appropriate cycle with both Navy and Army," said bowl representative Pete Hedley.

"Blue sky, 72 degrees, palm trees and sunshine in December works for us," said Gladchuk.

Army vs. Navy Dec. 3, 2:30 p.m., Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, chs. 13, 9, 1090 AM, 1430 AM

Poinsettia Bowl Navy vs. Mountain West Conference opponent, Dec. 22, 10:30 p.m., San Diego, ESPN2, 1090 AM, 1430 AM

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