Bowl bid is Navy's first since 1996

Updated: November 28, 2003, 5:18 PM ET
Associated Press

BALTIMORE -- Navy has accepted an invitation to the Houston Bowl, which will be the 10th bowl appearance in the service academy's history and the first since 1996, the school announced Friday.

Navy (7-4) does not have an announced opponent yet for the Dec. 30 game at Reliant Stadium in Houston, which will be televised on ESPN.

"Bringing our football team to the best host city in America is as good as it gets. Houston is a spectacular city for big time events," said Navy Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk.

Head coach Paul Johnson said the invitation was evidence of his team's dedication and "unwavering faith that we would turn this program around."

"When we started the year, one of our goals was to make it to a bowl game and now that has been accomplished," Johnson said. "We still have one major goal left and that is to beat Army and win the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy on Dec. 6."

Gov. Robert Ehrlich, who was traveling with the Maryland football team Friday to their game against Wake Forest on Saturday, said the invitation was terrific news for the academy.

"They've had some very difficult years for a number of reasons, including a brutal schedule. We are extremely pleased for Navy," said Ehrlich, who was a linebacker at Princeton.

This season's schedule was more forgiving than the last three, when Navy went 3-30.

Jerry Ippoliti, President and CEO of the Houston Bowl, said he was pleased to have one of the nation's military academy's at the game.

"Navy football brings to our bowl a nation-leading rushing team, a coach of the year candidate in Paul Johnson and the likely winner of the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy," Ippoliti said.

The Mids have set a school record for rushing with 3,554 yards this season. A victory Dec. 6 over Army would give the 7-4 Mids the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy, which is presented annually to the winner of football competition among the three major service academies and is named in honor of the President of the United States.

Navy has a 4-4-1 in its previous nine bowl games. Navy's last bowl appearance was in the 1996 Jeep Eagle Aloha bowl, when the Midshipmen rallied for 14 fourth-quarter points to upset California, 42-38.

This is the fourth year for a bowl game in Houston. It was called the bowl in 2000 and 2001 and the Houston Bowl in 2002.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press