Troy Calhoun relaxes after a long day of thinking.
Troy Calhoun relaxes after a long day of thinking.

We all know it’s the topic that won’t die. But now, Troy Calhoun has put his two cents into the “service academy players turning pro” debate, so I guess it’s worth talking about. And what does the esteemed Air Force coach have to say?

“Are we losing literally hundreds upon hundreds of outstanding officer candidates that will not consider going to any of the service academies because they have no chance to pursue a possibility?” Calhoun said. “I think right now we’re deterring a good chunk of young men and young women just because of a door that’s immediately shut.”

Brilliant. If you just make it easier to get out of the service commitment, then more people would be willing to go to service academies! Now THERE’S the argument we want to be making hot on the heels of Washington Post op-eds calling for service academies to be closed. But if that’s your logic, then why limit it to football players? If we just shortened the commitment for everyone, or if we let anyone defer or eliminate service obligations whenever something better comes along, then imagine how many awesome candidates we’d attract!  But you never hear that argument made. Somehow, it’s ridiculous to suggest such a thing for midshipmen/cadets in general, but it’s a candidate-enhancing boon when applied to football players. It’s just too hard to believe.

It’s hard to blame a football coach for making this argument. His job is to win games, and he’s just looking for ways to to help him do his job. It is, however, easy to blame a service academy graduate. The service commitment is more than just paying back the cost of an education. It’s the very reason the schools exist. The op-ed in the Post was right; there are cheaper ways to produce new ensigns and second lieutenants. The reason why the cost of the service academies is justified is because it’s cheaper to produce admirals and generals that way; service academy graduates become career officers at a higher rate than their ROTC and OCS counterparts. Trying to lure applicants who aren’t even willing to commit to 5 years isn’t going to increase the rate of academy graduates who make it to 20. It’ll do the opposite. And if you love your school at all, you don’t want that.

Sometimes I wonder if the people making these arguments really understand what they’re saying.


  1. Yessir…

    Honestly, his brief work here is pretty shoddy, and the Q&A is full of predictably bad questions with answers that aren’t any better. But the important thing to note is that the opinion is out there, and this guy isn’t alone. Enacting policies like Army’s ASO or doing what Calhoun suggests would be playing with fire.

  2. chbags

    maybe we can make it like the scratch off discount coupons the Navy Exchange sends out — you grab all the stuff you want and then after you commit to buy you find out how much of a discount you get … the ASO version would be to issue each plebe a scratch-off card on I-Day. Four years later, if you make it, as you are crossing the stage, the Supe scratches your card – four or five kids from each class just keep on walking out of the stadium and bypass the commissioning cermemony — just think how this would improve the quality of each incoming class? (where is the sarcasm button?)

  3. sandlapperspike

    “It’s hard to blame a football coach for making this argument. His job is to win games, and he’s just looking for ways to to help him do his job. It is, however, easy to blame a service academy graduate.”

    I’m not a service academy grad, obviously, but I can relate a little to this. At The Citadel, there are two kinds of football coaches: those who work within the constraints of the school, and those who aren’t willing to do so.

    The two head coaches who tried hardest to take the military out of the military college were both alums. I no longer assume that a coach who is a graduate is going to have any other worldview other than that of a typical coach trying to win as many games as he can. Calhoun is no different in this respect.

  4. football dad dan

    Mike, … Well presented argument & I fully agree with you.

    Being able to play football @ a Service Academy (especially @ a competative level within Div-1) is a credit to the dedication and work ethic of the players & football program there … especially when one considers that varsity athletics is secondary to the primary mission of development into a USN/USMC JO.

    sandlapperspike, … the difference is that The Citadel is a “private school”, .. where a graduate doesn’t necessarily have to accept a commission (in the service) after graduation –> USNA/USMA/USAFA are federally funded institutions whose specific mission is to “churn out” military Officers.

  5. I’m sure Spike knows of the distinctions, but there is a comparison to be made. While Citadel coaches might not have the same service commitment to deal with, there’s a parallel between the ASO debate and Citadel coaches either embracing or rejecting the military nature of the school. It’s an interesting point. I wonder if graduate coaches see the military side as more of a burden than their civilian counterparts would.

    At some point, it should probably be mentioned that Calhoun spent the majority of his active duty time as a football coach. I’m just not sure how that ties into the argument yet.

  6. football dad dan

    In-line with that info tidbit about TC’s military career, … I suppose a “fair” question to ask is what encompassed the “military service” of those two aforementioned Citadel grads –> Did either actually receive a military commission upon graduation from “The college of Charleston” & serve time as an officer (not football coaching related)???

    Might better explain the issue from this specific viewpoint.

    GO NAVY!!!

  7. TJ

    FB Dad,

    Citadel grads don’t have to join the military after graduation, they pay their own tuition. The schools are military in structure and rules but not in affiliation. They do however have significant ROTC units.

    College of Charleston is a separate school.

  8. The Citadel comparison isn’t about commissioning, just about their approach to the military side of the school in general. As Calhoun proposes tinkering with the service obligation, coaches at The Citadel have tinkered with how involved thier players are in that military life. It’s not a direct comparison, just a note that there are some parallels.

  9. football dad dan

    TJ, … I know that The Citadel is a private school & graduates not obligated to military service (and had stated that earlier), …

    The “The college of Charleston” (with the emphasis on “THE”) is how Citadel cadets/alumni refer to the institution as a “poke in the eye” to the actual College of Charleston. I assumed sandlapperspike was a grad & would know what I meant. Sorry for the confusion.

    Beat Army!!!

  10. Dave'69

    As Mike said, the job of a coach “…is to win games, and he’s just looking for ways to help him do his job.” Of course coaches at all levels try to find ways to change, bend, or even break the rules (see recent news stories about Memphis basketball) but I believe the ideals taught at the service academies are more important than win the game at any cost. They have certainly helped me throughout my life. As has been the case in the past, I’m sure that future changes will be implimented that I will welcome and others that I will curse, but overall give me integrity. It’s much better than many of the headlines you read each year about problems at BCS schools. Nice post Mike.

  11. Kahn Noonian Singh

    Don’t insult my intelligence Kirk…er…Mike!

    I’ll detonate the Genesis device.

    Maybe then I can beat Navy.

  12. Very dangerous post, as I was actually in the process of drinking coffee when I happened on it. Almost spewed on the keyboard. Great Star Trek reset! Made my morning.

  13. EightyFiver

    Always wondered if Ricardo Montelbon was juicin’ before that movie was made or if they just taped some prosthectic pectorals to his chest.

  14. Between Montelbon’s plastic pex (picked up from the Halloween USA store) and Shatner’s toupe (also picked up from the HUSA store) this movie is a gold mine.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s