Boo Corrigan is torn.
His parents Gene and Lena were born and raised in Baltimore, and the younger Corrigan started a sports marketing company in the city. But as the athletic director for the United States Military Academy, Corrigan is understandably wary about the Army-Navy football game returning to Charm City for 2014 and 2016.
"I feel most for our cadets who have to get up that morning and take an eight-hour bus ride down," Corrigan said. "They're leaving in the military term of oh-dark-thirty to get down to Baltimore. I don't even know how Annapolis is going to get over, but I know it's a whole lot shorter than eight hours.
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"But we love Baltimore," he continued. "Baltimore is a great city, the Ravens organization has been tremendous. So we know that they're going to do a great job. It's just that the distance is a little bit further for one way than it is for the other."
The 115th edition of arguably college football's greatest rivalry is scheduled to take place at M&T Bank Stadium on Dec. 13, 2014, the first time the game will be played in Baltimore since 2007. It will be back here again in 2016.
The Midshipmen won the 2007 game in a 38-3 rout before an announced 71,610. While that pales in comparison to the record of about 120,000 that watched both sides finish in a 21-21 tie at Soldier Field in Chicago on Nov. 27, 1926, the 2007 turnout is slightly better than the crowds that have attended the past nine games in Philadelphia. (Saturday's game is at Lincoln Financial Field in Philly for the fifth time in the past six years.)
John M. Bird — senior vice president of military affairs for the USAA, which presents the game — said Baltimore has always welcomed both service academies, their graduates and their fans with open arms.
"I think Baltimore is a great city with certainly great sports franchises there and great stadiums," said Byrd, who readily disclosed that he is a retired Navy vice admiral. "All that is very positive. I think it's always very wonderful when any city — and certainly one as historic as Baltimore — reaches out and wants to host the game. So it's not a matter of who's better. It's just a fact that people, a community, a wonderful city like Baltimore appreciates the value of the Army-Navy game and all that it represents — in particular, the representation of men and women who serve their country. So I applaud Baltimore, am looking forward to seeing the game in Baltimore. I think it's going to be a wonderful event."
After the 2008 season, the game was opened to a competitive process, and Dick Cass, president of the Ravens, said it didn't take much to convince the NFL franchise and the city to throw their hats into the ring.
"It's a great event for the city of Baltimore," Cass said. "It attracts a lot of people and showcases Baltimore in its best light. It's a great television event, and for the people who get to come to the game and see the activities around the game, it's just a very exciting experience."
Added Terry Hasseltine, director of the Maryland Office of Sports Marketing: "The Army-Navy Game is one of the premier collegiate sporting events in the country, steeped with tradition that cannot be rivaled. We're honored to welcome the two military academies, their fans and alumni to Baltimore and the Camden Yards Sports Complex in 2014 and 2016. The Army-Navy game again allows Baltimore to showcase itself as an ideal sports destination for hosting large and impactful events."
There is the perception, however, that Philadelphia — which has hosted 84 of the 113 games — is the more neutral site because of its fairly equidistant proximity to Annapolis and West Point, N.Y.
Asked about next year's game shifting to Baltimore, Army coach Rich Ellerson replied, "Playing a road game?" before insisting that his sole focus is on Saturday's contest.
Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo dismissed the notion of a homefield advantage, arguing, "There's Army people in Baltimore. It's like anything. There's Army-Navy people everywhere. We don't have to travel as far, but I'm sure it's going to be split fan-wise 50-50."