By West Point and Annapolis, offers from 14 cities—including Chicago, Miami and Warwick, R.I.—to host the Army-Navy game beginning in 2004. The academies' agreement with Philadelphia, which has hosted 76 of the 103 Army-Navy games, expires next December, and the schools view Philly as an uninterested host. This year's game was supposed to be played at Veterans Stadium, but the city scheduled a medical conference for last weekend, tying up hotel space and the ballroom used for the pregame gala. That prompted a move to New Jersey's Giants Stadium, and last Saturday representatives from more than a dozen prospective host cities turned out to schmooze officials and see Navy quarterback Craig Candeto set a school record with six touchdown runs in a 58-12 rout.
Army-Navy used to be a clash between two football powers, but the programs have been surpassed by other schools, and both teams were 1-10 coming into this year's matchup. Yet the game remains a highlight of the season, full of military pomp, and it generates about $10 million in revenue. While Saturday's attendance of 78,672 was just short of a sellout, it was 15,000 more than went to Houston's Reliant Stadium for the Big 12 title game that day. "It's an event," says Bob Walsh, a Seattle promoter making a bid. "The score doesn't matter. It's something you have to go to if you're a sports fan."
Staging the game, though, is uniquely difficult. Cities must arrange for the transportation of about 8,000 cadets and midshipmen, ensure about 5,000 hotel rooms and organize massive functions before and after the game. Still, cities will bid spiritedly (the New Jersey Sports and Exhibition Authority paid each school about $1.5 million), and the schools will likely follow the money. Says Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk, "This game can go anywhere."