What about Mitch Harris?

Caleb Campbell is the epicenter of the service* academy straight-to-the-pros debate, but he isn’t the only story. Navy’s own Mitch Harris, the fireball-tossing pitcher with as much pop in his bat as his lively right arm, has been getting a lot of press lately with the Major League Baseball draft on tap this week. Navy fans have undoubtedly already seen this piece in the Washington Times on Mitch and his situation. (Note to newspaper editors across the country: “Anchors Away” is about the most unoriginal, overused headline for a story about Navy sports. Please, please start coming up with something new.)

Anyway, the piece is pretty good despite the cliched headline. One thing that probably catches your eye is the series of quotes from Navy AD Chet Gladchuk.

Moreover, because the “nation is at war,” Navy secretary Donald Winter in November suspended early release from active duty and made five years of full-time service mandatory. Harris isn’t the only one displeased with that. By promising athletes the chance to play immediately in the pros, the differing policy gives West Point a marked recruiting edge over Annapolis.

Gladchuk has gone to the very top to try to get the Navy to change and said Winter seems willing to reconsider the issue.

“There is a chain of command, and I think I have addressed every link in this chain,” Gladchuk said. “Everyone is aware of our concerns that the playing field is not level and will eventually affect our competitive stature.”

“A-ha!” say the fans of the Alternative Service (lol) Option. Even Navy’s AD has no problem with it! He wants the same thing! Now it’s justified! Hooray!

Not exactly. Would you expect anything different from an athletic director? It’s Chet’s job to do what he can to ensure his teams’ success on the field. So if he sees something that would help him to that end, he should pursue it. It’s completely understandable why Stan Brock and Kevin Anderson would want the ASO, and completely understandable why Chet Gladchuk would want to even the playing field in response. But that doesn’t make it right. There is supposed to be a higher level in the chain of command that balances the desires of the athletic department with the needs of the service. It’s that level which has failed. I’m sure that service* academy coaches and athletic administrators would love for all kinds of things to change in order to make their jobs easier. Lower admissions standards, basket-weaving majors, more lax conduct rules, you name it. But these things are kept in check. Just like the Alternative Service (lol) Option should have been. Chet is right that he needs a level playing field. Hopefully the answer is for the ASO to be shut down rather than the Naval Academy stooping to such desperate and shameful measures.

One more thing…

Catcher Jonathan Johnston was drafted in 2007 in the 42nd round by Oakland – a year after he graduated – and is now playing in the minors. But Johnston previously served 18 months aboard a ship. That helped. He also had an understanding commanding officer who assigned him to the U.S. Military All-Star team, which has allowed him to play professionally.

Johnston believes he and Harris can serve the Navy best by playing and recruiting.

“We want to do both,” he said. “Because we can. We want to bring attention to the Navy. I’d rather be a recruiter and pay the Navy back that way.”

So many people say that sending players to the pros is great because it “brings attention to the Navy” or it “helps the Army.” The purpose of going to the Naval Academy isn’t to “help” the Navy. It’s to be the Navy. Not that the good of the service has anything to do with the policy. It’s a sad state of affairs.

May has now come and gone, which means that the Army’s “internal review” regarding the ASO should be complete. My guess is that they do nothing to change it. Here’s hoping the OSD crushes them. I won’t hold my breath.

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12 Responses

  1. Maybe. According to the 22 May article in the CS Gazette, “Army currently is reviewing its policy, and Calhoun said he understands all three academies will be made to follow the same rule.” Here’s hoping Calhoun knows something we don’t yet. And I can’t see OSD making Navy & AF adopt AS*O.

  2. I don’t see OSD making Navy & AF adopt the ASO. I do see Navy and AF doing so on their own if OSD doesn’t close the door on the Army.

  3. Last night I watched the movie “We Are Marshall” for the very first time. (I know, I know – I’m WAY late – but for me 2006 is still considered a current release!!) Imagine my surprise at the end to read that Marshall’s forward thinking coach, Jack Lengyel, went on to become the AD at the Naval Academy. So I Googled the guy and discovered that the ASO was actually his brainchild back in 1994!! I am truly surprised that with all the coverage of late that he has not been interviewed.

  4. It wasn’t his brainchild unless you consider ANY sort of pro option to be the ASO. Pro sports constituting active duty is the cornerstone of the ASO, and I doubt that the idea was a part of Lengyel’s proposal. I could certainly be wrong on that, though. I know Lengyel pitched something involving pro sports at some point in the 90s, but I don’t know any details. If you did indeed find info on this on Google, I’d love to see a link to it so I can read up.

    I’m getting the sneaking suspicion that Google wasn’t really a part of this process, though…

  5. ASO should not be discounted with laughs. During my 4.5 and dive in the SWO community, it became clear to me that most of the officers I served with were 1.) not from the Academy like me, 2.) promoted based almost entirely on retention, and 3.) overtrained, overworked and under-challenged.
    Both of the ships I served aboard (the last being in 2007) were over billeted with officers and consequently chock full of “made-up-job-O’s.” I truly believe that if a guy is good enough to be the #2 rated college pitching prospect in the country, he’s going to serve the country much better as a p.r. man than as the “amdin-O” on Perry Class Frigate.
    The Navy has a huge advertising budget. We have a stinking NASCAR team. Why not add a pro ballplayer instead of yet another soon to be disappointed two-tour swo?

  6. You make a fine case for reducing the number of officers commissioned each year, not spending taxpayer money to put someone in the pros. Besides, if ships are overstocked with JOs, then why do you even need the PR?

    There is a reason why there’s a glut of JOs. The Navy has trouble getting people to stay through their department head tours. Their solution is to bring in more Divos in the hopes that, with the rate of attrition staying the same, the sheer numbers will fill spots on the back end at department head school. The world might not revolve around frigate admin officers, but the hope is that enough of them will go on to be the OPS and CHENGs of the world. The excess is necessary.

    The Navy’s advertising budget isn’t what sends cadets and midshipmen through the service* academies. Slots at these schools are highly sought after, and their graduates are expected to become the foundation of the nation’s career military officers. No, every new Ensign that graduates from USNA doesn’t go on to serve 20. But they all get placed on career paths where they can if they want to. It’s up to the Navy to retain them. The academies retain a higher percentage of their graduates for 20 years compared to other commissioning sources. It contradicts the justification for the existence of the school to send graduates into dead-end careers.

    If you really want to have PR poster boys, there are much cheaper ways of doing it. Any number of late-round draft picks would probably take a $50-100K bonus to go through some officer indoc course like what lawyers and doctors go through in Newport. That is, if you think that their brand of PR would be worth anything. I do not.

  7. To: thebirddog

    YES, I did indeed find my info on Google by typing Jack Lengyel Navy AD in the search field. In the results was “Scout.com: Navy Forum List” with “1994 Defense Advisory Committee” and “Jack Lengyel” appearing in the tag. To link direct required a membership but I accessed the cached page and read a lengthy transcription of comments made by Jack Lengyel speaking in favor of “The Pro Option” where the academies could permit “the rare graduate who is drafted by a pro team to participate in that particular sport.”

    Since the man is still alive I thought it odd no one has contacted him for an interview as they seem to be contacting everyone else under the sun including Staubach and Robinson. I meant no disrespect so I’m not sure I understand your “sneaking suspicion” comment. If this site is only meant for people who agree 100% with your position just say the word and I will go away. It was never my intent to rain on your parade.

  8. Agreeing with me has nothing to do with it. Just thought you found something other than a message board post.

  9. No worries. I’m ready to bow out anyway. My son leaves for Annapolis in a month and I’m working extra hours so I can take time off for I-Day. Needless to say, as of now, I have better ways to spend my time.

    You say “slots at these schools are highly sought after” and while that’s true, it’s also true that applications at ALL of the service academies are down at a time where elsewhere applications are up record highs. And football slots are always hard to fill. You yourself wrote “Duke is a joke but Paul Johnson never won a head to head recruiting battle with them.”

    So I do hope Mitch Harris gets drafted (he probably will) and I do hope USNA finds a way to accomodate him (they probably will) because, my friend, like it or not “the times they are a changin’………”

  10. Applications are not down. They’re consistent with pre-9/11 numbers. That surge in applications wasn’t going to last forever.

    Football slots are hard to fill if you’re talking about getting BCS talent, but if you’re talking about fulfilling the mission of the school and sending graduates into the Naval Service, there’s no problem at all.

    Good luck to your son. I hope you’ve read my I-Day Manifesto!

  11. I haven’t read deeply into the ASO controversy, but it is my perception (which could be wrong) that Campbell–who really is a long shot and shouldn’t have been afforded this option–will be recruiting people to enlist in the army, not finding candidates to go to west point.
    In this vein, Campbell playing for the Lions (if it actually comes to that) is comparable in my mind to the army sponsoring a Nascar team.
    I went to a Sprint cup race (with a hot pass) in March and although the Navy wasn’t a title sponsor in the Sunday race, a chief and LT were present in uniform on pit road. They told me that their job was to follow the team around, compose press releases and provide community outreach.
    I don’t think that ASO is a sound policy because I don’t think that athletes should even consider playing professionally as an option when they enter a service academy… but if someone breaks through like David Robinson or Mitch Harris, they should get some special consideration.
    (whereas a late-round draft pick or an undrafted free agent should not)

  12. Edgar: You can’t really say that about late-round draft picks. Tom Brady was a late-round draft pick (#199 in the 6th Round) and look how he turned out.

    Anyone who gets drafted should have a chance because, as you said, the academies should accomodate someone who “breaks through” and whose acheivements bring opportunities they never dreamed they would have at age 18.

    thebirddog: Thanks for the good wishes. GO NAVY!

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