Catching Up

— The big news over the weekend was the lacrosse team’s 5-4 win over Maryland on Friday night. The Mids took a 5-0 lead into halftime and held on at the end. TBO2F sums things up and gives you all the links to game reports here. Between Maryland, Georgetown, and Hopkins, Navy probably needed to win at least one of those three to have a shot at being seeded in the NCAA tournament, assuming they beat Army and win the Patriot League tournament. Of course, that’s no guarantee the way Army and Bucknell have been playing. Navy travels to West Point to take on Army on Saturday at noon.

One more thing on the Maryland game– TBO2F points out that Navy turned the ball over on 14 of its 16 second half posessions. Not good, and not going to cut it if we want to purge the last of the wretched losing streaks that hang over our athletic department.

— Speaking of West Point, the tremendous amount of “good PR” generated by their Alternative Service* Option keeps pouring in. Here we have Thomas Hauser, Muhammad Ali biographer and Pulitzer Prize nominee, taking a break from boxing to write about the new super-awesome West Point policy. Most of his points are things you’ve already read here, but it’s worth a look.

— The other big news from this weekend was the first football scrimmage of the spring. The official report is here. Adam gave a good recap down in the comments of the last post, too. Bill Wagner gave his impressions here. So far the stars on the offensive side look like Bryant, Shinego, and Byrd, with Maurice Cumberland standing out on defense.

— All of next year’s home games (except Notre Dame) will start at 3:30 (ET).

One Baltimore blogger wonders if the new DC Bowl will keep the proposed Baltimore game from happening.

Roger Weighs In

Last week you saw a brief piece from South Bend regarding Army’s pro sports pipeline. Now the Dallas Morning News is weighing in, but with an added twist; they got Roger Staubach’s two cents on the subject. So what does Roger have to say about it?

“When I went there [USNA], I knew what the deal was,” Staubach said. “When I left high school, I wasn’t thinking I was going to play pro football. But today if you’re thinking that way, it would be nice to have an option like Army has. If Army has it, Navy should be able to compete with it as well.”

“It’s a complicated issue,” Staubach said. “But I think it’s good for the service academies if you have athletes that can compete at a higher level – and can still give back to the service – that they can find a compromise that allows them to play professional athletics. It’s worth the effort to look at it and try to figure it out.”

Sigh.

I don’t suppose it should be a surprise that a service* academy graduate who played pro football would be in favor of a policy that allows service* academy graduates to play pro football. Something that bothers me, though, is that there hasn’t been any real examination of all these supposed benefits that the Army at large stands to gain from this. Well, outside of this pipsqueak blog, anyway. Supporters say “great PR!” without getting much of a challenge. It’s kind of annoying. It’s almost a sport among service* academy fans to mock the Florida States and Miamis of the world over their lax standards for athletes. But as far as I’m concerned, Army is no different now.

Football Stuff

The media reports from Ken Niumatalolo’s spring press conference are coming in, and you may get confused by some of the headlines. The Post says, “Spring Practice Brings Big Changes for Navy.” The Sun says, “Change for change’s sake senseless to Niumatalolo.” Glad we got that cleared up! Fortunately, Christian Swezey and Peter Schmuck were talking about different things.

Schmuck was talking about Coach Niumatalolo’s overall coaching philosophy, while Swezey’s article focuses mostly on players There are plenty of changes on the depth chart as spring practice starts. Let’s start at center, which Coach called “our main concern offensively.” Swezey says:

Senior Ricky Moore (Northern) was listed as the starting center when Navy opened spring football practice yesterday, but if the coaches have their way, he won’t stay there long. Coach Ken Niumatalolo said he would prefer to use Moore as a starting tackle. For that to happen, one of the backup centers needs to have a good spring.

The most intriguing candidate is Andy Lark, a 6-foot, 290-pound junior. He is one of the strongest players on the team but spent last year as a reserve nose guard. He did not play as a freshman after he broke his leg.Niumatalolo said Lark is too talented to remain as the third-string nose guard “and get 10 reps a game.”

Coach Niumatalolo was asked by Swezey why Ricky Moore was moved to center, and the first thing he said was “For Air Force.” Then he got into a little more detail. Air Force switched to a 3-4 last year, and in doing so presented an odd (3 or 5-man) front. Notre Dame lined up the same way. In 3 or 5-man fronts, the nose guard is usually lined up in a 0 or 1-technique, meaning that they are lined up either directly over the center, or over his outside shoulder. The one-on-one matchup between the center and the nose guard can be a mismatch, since nose guards are typically… well, huge. I think it took a toll on Antron Harper last year, although I have nothing to back that up other than what I think I saw. Moore is 6-4, 283. Andy Lark is built like a bowling ball at 6-0, 290, and was described by coach Niumat as “maybe the strongest player on the team.” In contrast, Harper was once called the “smallest offensive lineman in I-A” earlier in his career by the SID staff. The added emphasis on size and strength at the center position is an interesting story to follow this spring.

Coach Niumatalolo also mentioned Jarod Bryant’s move to slotback. He’ll still be the #2 quarterback, but “Jarod is too talented to sit on the bench… He’s special with the football in his hands.” That’s also why Bryant will get a shot at returning kicks. Because Reggie Campbell was so effective in the return game last year, finding a replacement is another big priority. Backup fullback is another priority, and Niumat once again mentioned Devan Clark as someone he’s looking to transition from workout star to on-field performer.

When asked about the importance of putting his stamp on the program, Coach Niumatalolo tossed ego aside and said he doesn’t worry about that. “I think the core of the practice will stay the same,” he said. “I just want to make sure I do what’s right for the Program. I don’t care whose idea it was.” But while making his own mark isn’t a priority, the new head coach was very enthusiastic about the “infusion of fresh ideas” from his new assistant coaches. Along those lines, I thought one of Niumat’s most interesting comments came when talking about his offensive philosophy. He stated that he learned his Xs & Os from Paul Johnson, and the option game will look pretty much the same. But “there might be a few changes in the passing game. Not that we’re going to throw the ball more, but just some different ideas.” Coach Niumat credits these ideas to newcomers like Joe DuPaix and Ashley Ingram. One more thing to watch leading up to the spring game.

Anyway, the usual outlets did a great job recapping the press conference:

Capital
GoMids.com

Examiner
Times Blog

Overall, it’s clear that Coach Niumatalolo isn’t quite as comfortable behind the podium as Coach Johnson, but that will probably come with time. There was no hiding his enthusiasm, though; on the topic of the Poinsettia Bowl, he commented, “I’m still pissed that we lost.” He was clearly anxious to get started on the field. So am I.

Moving right along…

Bowl game update: The Congressional Bowl is up for NCAA approval next month, and without it, Navy might have a hard time finding a postseason home. That’s because, as you already know, existing bowls all have conference affiliations. But Chet has agreed to send the Mids to Washington pending the game’s approval, which hinges on finding an opponent. Bill Wagner gets into good detail.

Elsewhere in the land of Service* Academy football: Army football practices will be closed this spring, according to this blog entry at the Times Herald-Record. We already kind of figured that. I just wanted to compare this entry to what I said on the subject a couple weeks ago:

Him: A few weeks ago, Brock said he wanted to keep the offense a secret for as long as possible. The only people Brock is hiding the offense from is the Temple football team, Army’s first opponent in 2008. Once Army plays Temple, the big secret would be out. My job is to sniff out the offense before spring practices ends.

Me: You mean “opponent,” Stan, because as soon as you play your first game, everyone’s going to know what your offense looks like. What, exactly, is he hoping to accomplish? To try to pull a fast one on Temple? It isn’t like there won’t be reports all over the internet and in the papers anyway once practice starts.

Him: This isn’t the best move for Brock. Figure he would want as much publicity on his team as possible following its 11th straight losing season in 2007.

Me: Coach Brock needs to be telling anyone who will listen all about the new offense. Give downtrodden Army fans something to be excited about. Generate a little buzz about the the program. This is one of those times when the AD should pull the coach aside, tell him “tough luck,” and start a marketing campaign all about the new-look Army football team. 

I guess someone reads this blog after all. That’s OK. Considering that half of my stuff is just snarky comments on other people’s work, I’m not one to talk TOO much about originality…

*Unless the NFL wants you.

Speaking of the asterisk: It didn’t take long for someone to say “wait a minute…” about Army’s new Alternative “Service” Option. This blogger at the South Bend Tribune sees the program for what it is:

Campbell’s opportunity comes from a policy implemented in 2005 “that releases cadets from their five-year active duty commitment if they have ‘unique talents and abilities.’” That conjures images of cadets pedaling unicycles while spinning plates on their noses. “Look, Sarge, no hands!”

The idea is to grant exemptions for graduates who “participate in activities with potential recruiting or public affairs benefit to the Army.”

Recruiting for the battlefield or the football field?

Good question. We all know the answer. Some of you are probably thinking, “yeah, but it’s just some guy with the South Bend Tribune. Who cares?” Do you really think that this guy is the only one who’s going to notice? You haven’t heard the end of this. Not by a longshot. The Army is not going to generate “positive PR” by allowing West Point graduates to skirt their commitment for professional sports.

Loose Change

Lots of chatter popping up in the last couple of days:

  • In the “ignorance is bliss” category, we have PJ’s Monday presser. Talk about a list of things you wish you didn’t know… Kaipo’s in a neck brace, none of the punters are consistent, the secondary’s all hurt, and Greg Thrasher is in PJ’s doghouse. Yeesh. I guess there’s a silver lining in that Rashawn King is recovering well from his shoulder injury, but anyone who didn’t like PJ’s media day optimism can feel better knowing that it’s back to business as usual.
  • Navy will once again be an NCAA lacrosse tournament quarterfinal host this year. The ability to host events like these were a big reason why Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium made the switch to FieldTurf, so it’s nice to see that move pay off. It’ll be nicer if it’s a Navy home game this year.
  • The unending football conference affiliation talk resumed as Chet talked to Ron Snyder about the difficulties of finding bowl games as an independent. Conference membership means a lot more than bowl game access, though. I still don’t think that this will happen anytime soon, if at all.
  • Navy’s been sold out of Army-Navy tickets for a while. Now Army is too. If you want tickets, looks like you’ll be headed to Stubhub or eBay.
  • Scout.com’s Temple site previews Navy (subscription required). For those without a subscription, it’s very complimentary, saying that Navy “might be the second-toughest team on the schedule.” In case you’re wondering, Temple plays Penn State this year.
  • Some Air Force Academy grad wants to play pro baseball. I don’t really care that much as long as this doesn’t become a habit; the Air Force will do what it thinks is best for itself. But will people PLEASE stop comparing every scrub that wants to turn pro to David Robinson? By the time Robinson played his first game in San Antonio, he had already been an Olympic medalist, a Naismith Award winner, a Wooden Award winner, on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and led Navy to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament. That is a far, far cry from being one of thousands of players struggling to find a place in minor league baseball. Robinson is one of the best players in the history of his sport. Karl Bolt is not. It makes a difference when the Navy or Air Force is considering an athlete’s fate.
  • Bill Wagner offers a look at college recruiting, including Billy Lange’s approach.
  • ESPN.com talks Patriot League basketball as part of their “Shoot Around” series.

My Apologies…

I have to apologize in advance here for bringing up an article about Air Force. I hate Air Force. I kind of hope that the Yellowstone Caldera pops its top and buries the school Pompeii-style. But this article in the Colorado Springs Gazette touches on a topic of interest to Navy fans, so I’ll bite the bullet for now.

The topic is the old “should service academies let athletes go pro” question. Usually it divides Navy fans into two camps: the “great PR for the school” camp and the “that’s not the mission of the school” camp. It’s a tired old debate that I don’t particularly feel like hashing out at the moment. There’s one quote in the article that I do want to comment on, though:

“Hopefully (Air Force officials’) minds are open to the opportunity this thing brings,” Nwaelele said. “It looks good for the academy. It only brings positive stuff. Antoine’s doing it, and he’s doing a good job off and on the court.”

Only brings positive “stuff?” Who is he kidding? There is no faster way to get service academy athletic departments shut down than to start sending graduates into professional sports. That’s just begging for a congressional inquiry, especially when the military is as heavily tasked as it is nowadays. I’m sure it looks good for the basketball program, but how does that look good for the school? And what kind of positive “stuff” is anyone getting out of Antoine Hood? How many people even know that the NBDL exists? Let’s be real; we aren’t exactly talking about David Robinson here.

I’m sure this subject will present itself again, so I won’t dive too deep this time. I’m curious about what the Air Force will decide.