- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said Thursday the academy has spoken to the Big East about possible membership, but wants to wait and see how the league solidifies before making any decisions.
Gladchuk said Navy has not received an invitation, but it was close to an agreement to become a football-only member before Pitt and Syracuse bolted for the ACC.
"But all those little boxes that needed to be checked, we were getting close to checking them all," Gladchuk told ESPN.com Thursday. "But like everything, there's a little bit of regrouping going on right now."
When asked whether Navy would accept an invitation if offered one today, Gladchuk said, "I think right now I'd be more comfortable making certain they're comfortable with themselves, and they've got a little bit of work to do."
Army, which also has been mentioned as a potential football-only candidate for the Big East, is not focused on joining a conference at this point. Athletic director Boo Corrigan told ESPN.com on Friday he had spoken with conference commissioner John Marinatto but "not at any depth."
When asked about the possibility of joining a conference, Corrigan said, "We're not in any need or rush to do anything. We're just concentrating on who we are and making sure we can get our program as healthy as we can. ...
"The Big East is a wonderful conference and what John's done and Mike Tranghese before him, they really built something great. But right now, we're happy with where we are."
Army is an independent now but was a member of Conference USA from 1998 to 2004, going 13-67. The Black Knights have turned things around under coach Rich Ellerson, who took them to a bowl game last season for the first time since 1996.
Navy has been hugely successful as an independent as well, having averaged eight wins in the past 10 seasons, with eight straight bowl appearances. The academy has its own bowl affiliations and a television deal with CBS as well.
But given the shifting nature of college athletics, Gladchuk wants to put the academy in the best possible position, and that means future conference membership.
"The exercise is not about today. Everybody's jumping and moving and seizing the moment, but at the Naval Academy, it's about the future," he said. "What's going to be happening to college football six, seven, eight years down the road. Navy's intent is to be relevant and to still be able to maintain a program of national stature.
"This is more of a strategic thinking, more about strategic vision for us. We want to be a player. We want to be relevant. We want to be part of something that allows us to continue to succeed."
The Big East is the only real and best option for the Naval Academy.
"Conference affiliation, it's become the overriding factor in all of Division I athletics today, especially at the highest level," Gladchuk said.
"Navy's looking at this as a down-the-road situation. That doesn't mean we wouldn't react tomorrow or next week or the following week to a conference invitation. It just means we're not in panic mode. There's some schools that are and think if they don't grab it, it's over."
Gladchuk has some concern with reports that not all Big East members are fully on-board with the future of the league. UConn is still looking at a move to the ACC, and Rutgers reportedly has gauged interest with the Big Ten and ACC.
Though Marinatto said the schools pledged to stay in the league after representatives from all seven remaining football schools met Tuesday night, UConn and West Virginia put out statements that did not mention a future commitment to the Big East.
"The Big East is in more of a reaction mode with what's happened with Pitt and Syracuse," he said. "What's critically important for the Big East is they need to stabilize the membership first and make certain the people there now will remain the core of the membership moving forward. It's awfully disconcerting to read, and you never know what's right and what's speculative."
Gladchuk said he had no timetable for making a decision, but it does not appear Navy would be able to join anytime soon because of obligations.
"We're lock, stock and barrel for at least seven, eight years with everything, bowls, TV, scheduling," he said. "We're not in a situation where we have to react quickly. Yes, the future is conference affiliation. It has to be. Yes, the Big East has been incredibly attractive to the Naval Academy. But the Big East has got to make certain that the players are the players and that everybody is in and committed. With that strength of unity, the Big East can get through all this."
Andrea Adelson covers the Big East for ESPN.com.