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.