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Chuck Landon: Reversal of Navy's decision flatters MU

Aug. 16, 2012 @ 12:05 AM

Mike Hamrick feared the worst.

When the letter from the United States Naval Academy landed on the Marshall athletic director's desk in the Shewey Building, Hamrick uttered a mental, "Uh, oh."

Then, his dread was realized.

The letter from veteran Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk was informing Hamrick, as well as all the other athletic directors who had scheduled future football games with the Midshipmen, that all those contests had been canceled.

The reason?

Navy is joining the Big East Conference and needs to schedule only four games now instead of 12. In reality, four isn't even the right number.

Since Navy has long-standing series with Army, Air Force and Notre Dame, the Middies really only need one additional non-conference game per season.

So much for Marshall's visit to Annapolis, Md., scheduled for Sept. 3 in 2016 and a home game against Navy on Oct. 13 in 2018 at Edwards Stadium.

Or so it appeared.

But Hamrick refused to concede.

"Their AD and I are old friends," said Hamrick. "Chet was the athletic director at Houston when I was the AD at East Carolina. So, I communicated with Chet and said, 'We'll get out of it if you want us to. We understand your dilemma. But we really want to play you.' "

That was enough to encourage Gladchuk to ponder the situation along with all the circumstances and nuances that are part and parcel of Marshall's unique football program.

Maybe it was the crash.

Maybe it was the presence of Jack Lengyel who was Navy's long-time athletic director after serving as Marshall's post-crash head football coach.

Maybe it was the "We Are Marshall" movie.

Or maybe it was all of the above.

Whatever the reason, Gladchuk reconsidered and made an exception for Marshall. The only non-conference games on future Naval Academy schedules are Army, Air Force, Notre Dame and, yes, Marshall.

Nice company, huh?

"Very nice," said Hamrick. "Now, we're going to play Navy in 2021 and 2022. At Navy in '21 and Navy here in '22 as the season-opener.

"Knowing that Navy has to play Army, Air Force and Notre Dame and they can only schedule one other non-conference game per season ... and they're going to play us? I feel good that they said, 'Hey, we'll still play you, Mike. We'll still play Marshall.' "

Hamrick should feel good about it.

Very good.

Particularly since another series with Navy he once scheduled has been given the kibosh.

"When I was at UNLV I scheduled a four-game series with Navy," said Hamrick, who was the Rebels' athletic director before coming home to his alma mater. "Well, I know that Navy and UNLV have agreed to discontinue that series because of Navy going into the Big East."

But the Middies still are going to play Marshall.

"I feel pretty good about this," said Hamrick. "When I took the athletic director's job at Marshall, I had two goals. I wanted to schedule a Big Ten opponent to play in Huntington. And I wanted to bring a service academy here for a home game.

"Now, we have Purdue as our home-opener in 2015 (Sept. 5) and Navy as our home-opener in 2022."

Mission accomplished.

Which just goes to prove once again how well respected and highly regarded Marshall actually is nationally.

"I just hope I'm still alive to see Navy play here," said Hamrick.

Me too, Mike, me too.

Chuck Landon is a columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827, or email him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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