In news that will surprise nobody, I don’t like Air Force. There are certain corners of the Navy diaspora that take great offense to that; I’m frequently told that I don’t “get it.” We’re all service academies, after all. One team, one fight, right? If you say so. I’ve always felt that was a one-way sentiment on the part of some Navy fans, based more on wishful thinking than anything else. You never saw any Air Force fan upset over Fisher DeBerry taking cheap shots at Army or Navy, did you? Of course not. If you asked them, Navy fans like me were just bitter because Air Force won so many games.
That’s nonsense, of course. Those of us who grew up as Navy fans in the ’80s and ’90s were used to seeing the Mids lose to just about everybody, so there was nothing special about Air Force in that regard. No, this was different. When you talked to people in and around the Navy program, you would hear stories about some of Air Force’s recruiting tactics that really caught you off guard. Fans of every school have stories that they heard from a friend of a friend about how their rival does shady things, so it’s easy to dismiss these things. Besides, Fisher DeBerry’s gone now, so everything’s different, right?
Nope. Thanks to Twitter, we no longer have to rely on rumors and stories to know what Air Force is selling to recruits. During the Army-Navy Game, their coaches put it out there for everyone to see.
That piece of brilliance came courtesy of this guy, Air Force assistant coach (and graduate!) Jake Campbell. The guy whose Twitter page says that Air Force football is “graduating the best society has to offer” while he mocks the guys doing the work that, by his own admission, his guys aren’t willing to do. And there it is, what we’ve always known: Air Force’s recruiting pitch is “come here because it’s easier.” If Campbell’s players are actually drawn to that pitch, then maybe he’s right; for the sake of the country, maybe it is better us than them.
This tweet has a few different implications. Like I said, the pitch is obviously “it’s easier here.” Knowing that’s what Air Force is selling, is there any doubt that their practice of sending graduates straight into coaching is done specifically as a recruiting tool? As a carrot to dangle in front of guys who don’t like the idea of military service? Guys like Brad Padayao, who choose Air Force because:
I want nothing to do with war, and if I’m in the Navy, there’s more chance of that.
Gee, I wonder where he got that idea. Padayao ended up transferring to Eastern Oregon, which brings up another point: this kind of a pitch explains Air Force’s terrible retention. When you sell guys on “don’t worry, you don’t have to do all that military stuff,” what do you think their reaction is going to be when they get to the school and have some upperclass dweeb screaming in their face? Why do you think Air Force doesn’t list freshmen on their roster unless they’re on the depth chart? Two reasons: so recruits can’t see the competition they’ll be facing for playing time, and so everyone else doesn’t see how many players end up leaving the school.
The most damning part of this pitch though is that it’s dishonest. What, does he think that cadets and midshipmen at Army and Navy don’t go into aviation? That’s definitely what he’s trying to sell:
Never mind that both the Army and Navy did fly-bys before the game; I guess he just hopes his audience missed that bit. There’s a reason for that, too.
Campbell knows all about Naval Aviation. He just doesn’t want the kids he’s recruiting to know. It seems sort of ridiculous, but you have to understand that things that are basic military knowledge to you and me aren’t so obvious to high schoolers that are just being exposed to the military for the first time. The problem that Campbell and the rest of the Air Force coaches face is that if they were honest about post-graduate career options, they’d find that they don’t have as much to offer as USNA. In reality, just about anything you can do out of the other service academies, you can do out of the Naval Academy. Want to fly jets? Ok. Helicopters? Fine. Tanks? Infantry? No problem. Special forces? Duh. And then of course there’s the whole ship and submarine thing, which you can’t get anywhere else. If your job is recruiting high school kids that don’t know anything about the military, that’s huge. You can sell them on the value and opportunity of military service, but at USNA they still have four years to learn which military careers appeal to them instead of having their options limited as soon as they pick another school. It’s a tough package to beat.
Campbell’s deception is essentially an admission that he can’t beat it. If there were enough positives to sell about the Air Force Academy, their coaches wouldn’t have to resort to misleading kids about the competition. Do you think they have your best interests in mind if they’re already trying to confuse you? If you were a recruit, is this a guy you’d want to play for? I guess some do, or at least they just don’t know any better.
While that’s the most shameful stuff, there’s plenty of buffoonery to be had in that timeline (although some of it has since been deleted). It’s good to know that our Air Force friend was watching the Poinsettia Bowl, too. And what did he have to say about it? Well, he mocked Keenan Reynolds:
Sort of ridiculous to say that Navy wouldn’t have won 7 games if they were in the Mountain West after they just beat a 7-win Mountain West team (that crushed Air Force, by the way), but whatever. Obviously it was only because Navy was lucky:
No, wait… It was because San Diego State didn’t have their best receiver:
And man, did you see those Navy uniforms?
Candy canes, get it? Because of red and white stripes! Good one! Can we think of anything else that has red and white stripes that this Air Force coach might want to make fun of?
Maybe the funniest part about all of this is the very idea that there’s an Air Force coach out there live-tweeting Navy games. I guess that’s a product of Navy having so many nationally televised games to choose from. I can’t even imagine the opposite happening. Can you picture a Navy coach pecking away at his keyboard like this during an Air Force game? It’s laughable. This isn’t some message board clown yammering away. It’s a coach! It’s almost too absurd to believe, but then again, it’s Air Force.
If you want to keep rooting for Air Force, that’s your business; but don’t tell me that I don’t “get it,” because the reality is that there’s nothing to get.