Bill Wagner weighed in yesterday on Ricky’s performance in the East-West Shrine Game. It was a positive assessment for the most part, and I agree. I thought Ricky played well. He looked a little bit uncomfortable on his first series, and looked like he could have used some better cleats when he slipped on his first pass attempt. On his second series, the coaches started him out by running a couple of quarterback draws, which are right in Ricky’s wheelhouse. That seemed to give him a little confidence, and he played well after that. The wind was absolutely ridiculous that day– it was strong enough to actually blow over one of the metal benches on the sideline before the game– making downfield passes a virtual impossibility. On short and medium-range passes, though, Ricky threw the ball very well. Well enough to turn the heads of NFL scouts? Hell if I know. Besides, most of their evaluation is done during the week in practice. But if nothing else, Ricky played well and made Navy fans proud. At least this Navy fan, anyway.
There needs to be some clarification after Wags’ article, though. He’s wrong about the “Alternative Service Option.” The ASO is not, as he put it, a “Department of Defense initiative.” The DoD policy, which you can read here, requires a minimum of two years of active duty service before an athlete is allowed to apply to his particular service’s secretary for permission to play professional sports. I emphasize “minimum” because any further requirements, including additional years of active service, are at the discretion of the individual service secretaries. The Secretary of the Navy requires that athletes serve the entire length of their active duty obligations. The Secretaries of the Army and the Air Force do not, and instead abide by the DoD minimums.
The “Alternative Service Option” is a defunct program that the Army attempted as a way to circumvent the Department of Defense minimums. Born out of a West Point committee assembled in 2003 and tasked with finding ways to improve Army football, the ASO allowed Army athletes to play professionally immediately upon graduation beginning in 2005. In order to get around the DoD requirement for at least two years of active duty service, the ASO simply said that athletes could play professional sports and call that “active duty service.” The Department of Defense shut the ASO down, issuing a memo that stated “constructs for ‘active duty’ service should not include arrangements typically unavailable to others in uniform.”
In short, there is no DoD “program.” Applications to play professionally are handled on a case by case basis, following DoD minimums, and at the discretion of each service’s secretary. The Secretary of the Navy simply chooses not to approve the applications he receives.