It’s been quite the spring season for Naval Academy athletics. Baseball, track, men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s tennis… All of them had very good campaigns. The women’s rowing team captured the Patriot League championship in exciting fashion, and in doing so clinched the conference’s all-sports Presidents’ Cup for Navy for the third time in four years. It’s boom times for the Blue and Gold, yet on-field success might not even be the biggest Navy sports story so far in 2015. Big news came off the field as well, as two Naval Academy athletes were drafted by professional leagues. Joeseph Greenspan was selected by the Colorado Rapids in the second round of January’s MLS SuperDraft, while the New England Patriots picked Joe Cardona in the fifth round of the NFL draft. Their selections re-ignite one of the oldest debates in service academy sports: under what conditions should athletes be allowed to turn pro?
This is a sports blog, not a “general Naval Academy happenings” blog. There are certain events, however, that transcend sports and deserve to be mentioned here. The passing of Wesley Brown is such an event.
On the strength of one link in the cable,
Dependeth the might of the chain.
Who knows when thou may’st be tested?
So live that thou bearest the strain!
The purpose of plebe summer is not simply an indoctrination to a military lifestyle. It also teaches incoming plebes the single most important lesson for military success: that the individual no longer matters. Once these new denizens of the dixie cup raise their right hands and take the oath, they become part of a team. Everything they will do after that point will be for the good of that team, and in turn they know that they can count on the team to get them through situations they didn’t think they could handle before. That mantra doesn’t end after Herndon; they will carry it with them through graduation and into their Naval careers.
Now imagine going through the rigors of this environment without a team, or even a roommate. No, simply not having a team would have been an improvement. Imagine going through USNA while those who were supposed to be your team were instead actively working against you. Inventing reasons to give you demerits and put you on restriction. Hazing you. Trying to get you to quit if they failed in their efforts to get you kicked out. How many of us could do it? How many would even want to try?
Take heed in your manner of speaking
That the language ye use may be sound,
In the list of the words of your choosing
“Impossible” may not be found.
Wesley Brown did. The history of racial integration at the Naval Academy is not a proud one, and as the first black midshipman to make it to graduation, he endured all that and more. That he was able to persevere is important, but just as important is how he did it. It would have been understandable, expected even, for LCDR Brown to want nothing to do with USNA, and to have been made bitter by his experience. Yet he wasn’t, at least not publicly. He never singled out a classmate for the way he was treated. He didn’t curse the Naval Academy, though he would have been justified in doing so. Instead, he embraced his alma mater, serving on the Alumni Association Board of Trustees and maintaining a visible presence on the yard. He continued to put ship and shipmate before self, and became the embodiment of that most fundamental of midshipman lessons. The grace with which Brown handled his burden prevented further divisiveness and accelerated the process through which the Academy corrected its wrongs and became the institution that it is today.
Doth the paintwork make war with the funnels
And the deck to the cannons complain?
Nay, they know that some soap and fresh water
Unites them as brothers again.
So ye, being heads of departments,
Do you growl with a smile on your lip,
Lest ye strive and in anger be parted,
And lessen the might of your ship.
It is appropriate, then, that there is a building bearing his name on the Yard. If it is a love of country that inspires us to serve, then how great must that love be for someone who answers the call even while being harassed by those who would have him fail? Officers capable of leadership in the face of adversity are exactly what the Naval Academy strives to produce. Future generations of midshipmen must remember the example that Brown set for them. The moment he decided to bearest the strain, our school and our country were changed for the better.
Say the wise: How may I know their purpose?
Then acts without wherefore or why.
Stays the fool but one moment to question,
And the chance of his life passes by.
May he be remembered with gratitude as he rests in eternal peace.
Take a look at the scoreboard from week one around college football. You’ll find plenty of close calls and near upsets (Eastern Washington’s 30-27 loss to Washington comes to mind) and you’ll also find plenty of games with misleading final scores. You’ll see blowouts and nail biters, traditional powerhouses running roughshod and FCS punching bags getting, well, punched. Somewhere in there, you’ll see Navy’s 40-17 win over Delaware.
It wasn’t the first time Navy beat an FCS team, and it was far from the most impressive from a production standpoint (anyone remember Shun White?). But with so many questions entering the year, and so many defensive players breaking into the fold for the first time, Navy’s win over the 5th-ranked Blue Hens is something to feel good about after an offseason of turbulence.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not here to play cheerleader, and I’m not here to start making predictions or begin starting chants to see the proverbial “gravy” everyone always talks about. But at the same time I’m not coach Niumatalolo, and I’m not going to nitpick when Navy’s win was in fact a very solid performance for week one, especially given what some other college teams were dealing with against lesser foes this past weekend. As Bruce Feldman reminded everyone during the halftime break, KC Keeler’s Blue Hens aren’t exactly the Little Sisters of the Poor, and Delaware’s number five ranking was well deserved. Considering Oregon State – a BCS team – fell to 24th-ranked Sacramento State, and that Duke – another BCS team – lost to 16th-ranked Richmond, Navy’s win looks like the kind the kind of business-as-usual game you’d expect a perennial bowl team to have over an FCS team.
And you know what, it was. The final stats– including Navy’s 437 yards to Delaware’s 363 – may not seem blowout-worthy, but the Mids did almost everything right. From Kriss Proctor’s running of the option, to the defense stepping up in key moments and holding the Hens off the board, Navy kept the perennial FCS title contender at arm’s length for the entire game. Once more, Navy did it virtually mistake-free. I mean, how many week-one games do you see without a team committing a penalty or just turning the ball over a scant one time? How about having a kicker nail a 54-yard field goal, or a special teams unit – with a number of freshmen, mind you – giving up no big returns? Now that‘s something last year’s team didn’t manage to do in the opener, nor was it something Navy managed to do in its rout of Towson in the 2008 opener.
There’s a lot of season left to play, and a lot of games on the schedule that are going to challenge this team more than Delaware. For all we know, the Blue Hens might end up being the FCS’s biggest disappointment. But something tells me they won’t be, and something tells me that Navy’s business-as-usual win could be a welcome prelude to a season filled with many more.
The opening week of the college football season will always hold a special place in my heart. Aside from providing a usually welcomed and much-needed break from a whole three or four days of classes, it has always managed to indulge that innate sports fan desire in me to see an upset. David vs. Goliath matchups? Week One always provides plenty of them, and that’s not likely to stop anytime soon. Sure, fans of BCS conference teams may moan ad nauseum about playing the Little Sisters of the Poor (who, it turns out, don’t actually field a team), but with the state of television contracts and ticket sale revenue being what they are, the incentive to play an FCS team isn’t the opportunity cost loss some people would like us to think it is.
Good for people like me who enjoy watching the ACC take its annual nose dive or two against Colonial Athletic Conference teams, but good for the FCS teams playing? According to Delaware head coach KC Keeler, maybe not. That, at least, if you’re going off of what Keeler said in the weekly CAA teleconference on Monday:
My preference is to not play any I-A teams. The goal of our program is not to win a I-A game, it’s to win a national championship. It’s really difficult to make the playoffs and we need to put ourselves in the best position possible to do so. We need to have enough wins to get into the playoffs.
Interesting comments, no doubt, especially when you factor in the history of the Navy-UD series. As Bill Wagner points out in his blog, the series has been going back to 1984 and is currently sees Navy with an 8-7 series advantage. Hardly the kind of one-sided stomping that certain SEC or Big 10 schools unload on their FCS “rivals” on a yearly basis, and by and large good football to watch regardless of the week the game is being played in.
While I don’t presume to actually define what’s good and what’s not good for the Delaware program, I can’t help but question what is behind Keeler’s comments, and if they’re really meant to be taken at face value. True, his team is among dozens fighting for 10 at-large spots in the playoffs if they don’t win the CAA – but I’m sure Keeler would tell you that winning the CAA is the first goal of his program each year, if only because it would include a bye in the playoffs and a possible streamline to the National Title Game. Likewise, if we’re to believe recent history, then beating an FBS team – especially a perennial bowl team like Navy – carries quite a bit of weight with the NCAA committee when considering at-large bids. So wouldn’t it help Delaware to keep playing a game against an FBS team like Navy? My inclination says it would, especially now that one of the CAA’s best teams – Massachusetts – is heading up to the FBS.
Smoke and mirrors? I’m not saying it is, but something tells me to take these comments with the suspicion of coach speak. Keeler’s program is established enough that it’s always going to be in contention for an at-large spot in the playoffs even if his team doesn’t win the CAA, and given the demanding CAA slate and the incentives of upsetting Navy, it seems a productive use of a game to travel down to Annapolis. The real reason for the comments? Economic, perhaps, but also to deflect attention from the matchup, and to downplay media attention for the upset that he and his players are banking on.
He cares. His team cares. They just don’t want you to know how badly they do.
Yes, I am aware of the “controversy” surrounding NAPS and admissions and whatnot. No, I’m not going to talk about it beyond the few sentences you’re about to read.
Nothing whips up page views for the Capital quite like a Naval Academy argument, and that’s all we have here: the Capital stirring a non-existent pot. Now that the Bruce Fleming admissions crusade has sort of run its course (at least until he writes his next book), the Capital has simply redirected those same arguments toward the prep school. What? NAPS is a “back door” for candidates with lower grades to get into USNA? No shit, assholes. That’s what it’s always been there for. Strangely, not everyone shares the opinion that SAT scores are the alpha and omega of what makes for a good naval officer. The prep school is a way to get those candidates with potential– but lower scores– the chance to prepare for the academic rigors of USNA life. It couldn’t be more straightforward, but by repeatedly using phrases like “back door” the Capital is clearly trying to cast NAPS as some shady, secret enterprise. The whole routine is a joke.
Take a close look at this article. What is the story? That a Naval Academy graduate wrote an e-mail to a senator. That’s it. I mean, really? This is news? I’m a Naval Academy graduate, Earl. Would anyone write a story if I sent a few e-mails? That newsprint was wasted on something as ridiculous as some random disgruntled grad shooting e-mails to Jim Webb just illustrates the Capital’s intent. My link to that pathetic “story” is as close as I’ll come to playing along.
If you think the Academy should do away with the admissions board altogether and just accept the top 1000 SAT scores that apply, good for you. I’ve already responded to that. I’ll respond to a new argument when someone actually makes one.
I can’t believe I’ve gone two weeks without mentioning the new USNA ads on TV. Gone are the high school AV club, public access-quality gubmint ads with 20 year-old footage. In are snazzy new productions that might be a tad cheesy, but they’re professional looking. At least they aren’t downright embarassing anymore. One thing about the Ram Vela ad… Why would he think about Coach Niumatalolo? Niumat was the offensive line coach! Meh. Creative license, I suppose.
Anyway, the main ad shows a varsity football player, a singer in the gospel choir, a volunteer in Mids For Kids, a varsity soccer player, and some kind of shipdriving simulator. My question is: how many of these things would be considered “secondary, optional, and conditional?” Only one of them looks related to warfare training. The rest appear to the same kind of “distractions” that the Superintendent railed on a year ago. Funny how now they’re what’s being used to get candidates interested in the Naval Academy in the first place. Maybe ECAs are a bit more important than you gave them credit for, eh, Admiral? Shocking.
Odds & ends you may have missed over the past week:
Did I mention my March of Dimes walk?
Ken Niumatalolo added one more assistant to his coaching staff, hiring former Harvard wide receivers coach Mike Judge to be the new fullbacks coach. The announcement was a bit of a surprise, as Ivin Jasper was originally supposed to coach both the quarterbacks and the fullbacks. I don’t know what changed there.
The Mid-Majority listed its picks for conference award winners. The blog agrees with the Patriot League’s pick for Player of the Year in Greg Sprink, but endorsed Jeff Jones for the coaching honors.
It’s spring break at USNA, and the women’s soccer team is spending it in Spain.
Spring break also means a trip for the lacrosse team, and for the second straight year they’ll be heading to Dallas. Coming off their best performance of the season against Lehigh, the Mids will look to keep their Patriot League momentum rolling tomorrow when they play Holy Cross at Texas Stadium. A little bit more on the event here. I liked it better when the team went to Orlando on spring break, but I’m biased.
Yale Eckert tossed a one-hitter against Iona. And they use aluminum bats!
There was a piece in the Washington Times about the Foundation.
Matt DaSilva at Lacrosse Magazine ponders whether the Navy women’s lacrosse team will be 16-0 at the end of April. We will find out just how good these Mids are when they take on defending Patriot League champs Holy Cross this weekend.
Mike Preston, who is quickly becoming a favorite of mine, discusses how much of a crock it was for the NCAA to have given an extra year of eligibility to last year’s Duke lacrosse seniors.
And finally, Mansfield certainly seems to be generating a lot of hoopla for their new sprint football team. But to give you a feel for the current state of sprint football, we have this:
Steve McCloskey, Mansfield’s director of athletic operations and information, explained that the CSFL season generally includes seven or eight games, and there are no playoffs. The Mountaineers will not compete against Army and Navy this season as the players there “are in training year-round. Their programs are elevated,” McCloskey said.
He added that the university and the CSFL mutually agreed to give the Mountaineers two years to get ready for the service academies, but Mansfield could play Army and Navy as soon as next season if the Mountaineers think they’re ready.
It takes two years just to get ready to play the service academies? Come on, it’s not like they’ll do any worse than Princeton. (Oh, and pay no attention to the part in the article that says Cornell won the league this year).
Anyone see this?
The following is the response I wrote, originally published on gomids.com:
If you’re reading this, then you have probably already read Chris Rohe’s piece about hating Notre Dame. After 43 years of losing to the same team, I’m sure he isn’t the only Navy fan to feel that way. That’s too bad. Losing is frustrating, but to hate Notre Dame as a result is a myopic point of view. Navy and Notre Dame have a bond that is very unique in the world of college sports.Most Navy and Notre Dame fans know the story. World War II took a huge toll on colleges and universities across the country as men of college age were called into service. Notre Dame was no exception, and the school faced a financial crisis because of it. The military had a completely different problem; the war had created a demand for officers that existing commissioning sources were unable to meet. Several service schools began to appear on college campuses and military installations; some, like Iowa Pre-Flight and Bainbridge Naval Training Center, even made a splash on the college football scene. Father Hugh O’Donnell, acting president of Notre Dame at the time, saw the military’s need as a solution to Notre Dame’s financial woes. He offered the school’s facilities to the Army, but was turned down. The Navy– particularly Chester Nimitz– was far more receptive, and a Naval training center was established at Notre Dame in 1941. During the war, 12,000 Naval officers were trained in South Bend. The influx of Navy trainees saved the school.Notre Dame awarded Nimitz, who had become Chief of Naval Operations, an honorary degree in 1946. At the ceremony, Nimitz spoke of his gratitude for the service that Notre Dame provided to the Navy, and for the officers that served under him in the Pacific fleet:
Father O’Donnell, you sent forth to me, as to other naval commands on every ocean and continent, men who had become imbued with more than the mechanical knowledge of warfare. Somehow, in the crowded hours of their preparation for the grim business of war, they had absorbed not only Notre Dame’s traditional fighting spirit, but the spiritual strength, too, that this University imparts to all, regardless of creed, who come under its influence.
Nimitz wasn’t alone in his expression of gratitude. In thanks for what the Navy did for the school, Notre Dame saves a place on its football schedule for Navy– Nimitz’s alma mater– each year.
College football has changed a lot since 1946. Once-sacred rivalries such as Oklahoma-Nebraska and Pitt-Penn State haven’t stood the test of time, falling victim to a shifting conference landscape driven by television money. But Notre Dame still honors its 60 year-old promise. Adherence to a decades-old vow is far from “disingenuous,” as Rohe chooses to describe the Notre Dame administration. It is, in fact, the most genuine form of loyalty that there is in college football. And don’t think that Notre Dame’s loyalty isn’t tested, either. The Irish are under constant criticism for playing Navy. John Feinstein describes Notre Dame as a bully for scheduling what he feels is an overwhelmed Navy team each year. In a BCS world where so much emphasis is placed on strength of schedule, there are many in the media who ridicule Notre Dame for not dropping Navy. The biggest names in college football want to schedule Notre Dame; the Irish could surely make more money by replacing Navy with a higher-profile opponent. Yet Notre Dame never hesitates to renew the series, recently extending it to 2016. Notre Dame does not turn its back on the promise it made.
The truth is that Navy needs this game far more than Notre Dame does. Playing Notre Dame is a financial windfall for the Naval Academy Athletic Association. The TV revenue, plus ticket sales in venues twice the size of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, account for a large part of NAAA’s operating budget. The “million dollar guarantee” between the two schools means that even when Notre Dame is the home team, Navy receives a substantial portion of the gate receipts at Notre Dame Stadium. Having this reliable revenue stream means several things. It allows NAAA to fund 30 different varsity teams, giving midshipmen more opportunities to fulfill the physical mission of the Academy. Just as important, it allows Navy to remain independent. Teams join conferences in large part because they can’t survive without the shared revenue. Navy doesn’t need that shared revenue to stay above water because it makes money off of playing Army and Notre Dame. Navy’s own football success of late has a lot to do with its independence, as our scheduling flexibility allows us to keep things manageable. Playing Notre Dame also pays dividends in recruiting, as players like knowing that they’ll get 4 shots to play on college football’s biggest stage during their Navy career. It would be hard to achieve any kind of success at Navy without Notre Dame.
The most disturbing part of Rohe’s piece is his description of Notre Dame fans as arrogant. We are all familiar with the bandwagon “subway alumni.” That group, like those of any school, can certainly be a mixed bag. My experiences in South Bend, however, are nothing like what Rohe described. I had the privilege of making two trips to Notre Dame Stadium while I was a midshipman, and in those two trips I was treated like a king. Notre Dame embraces its naval heritage, and still boasts the largest NROTC unit in the country. Notre Dame’s NROTC unit has always served as a wonderful host for mids who make the trip. The real treat, though, is walking around before and after a game. The uniform I wore was a ticket to every tailgater in the parking lot. I cannot count how many times I was invited by an old Irish alum who’d put his arm around me, put a hamburger in my hand, and tell stories about Navy games past and what those games meant to him. When the Superintendent announced the crackdown on movement orders at the beginning of the season, I was relieved that the one exception was Notre Dame. Every mid should have the opportunity to experience what my classmates and I did.
Rohe, if he had taken the time to understand Notre Dame fans, would know that Prop 48 admissions were a sore spot for many. And however bogus they might have been, one would think that Navy’s own steroid allegations and legal issues in the much more recent past would have forced Rohe to give pause before firing that shotgun in his glass house. As for “bastardizing” traditions– I don’t even know what that means.
I apologize if I come off as confrontational. That isn’t really my intent. Rohe’s attitude is the prevailing one among many college football fans. In all honesty, I am by no means a fan of Notre Dame football either. I thought Lou Holtz liked to run up the score, and I find Charlie Weis to be as arrogant as they come. However, I don’t let my opinion of the football team overshadow the importance of the relationship between Notre Dame and the Naval Academy, nor do I ignore the honor and integrity with which Notre Dame has carried out that relationship. Those two values are at the heart of everything that the Naval Academy stands for, and I am proud to have my alma mater associate itself with another institution that clearly feels the same way. And that is really what is at the heart of this rivalry. While the World War II tale is the most famous story behind Navy-Notre Dame, the series actually began in 1927. The following passage, written by Notre Dame president Rev. Matthew Walsh, appeared in that program:
Notre Dame, Army, and Navy make an ideal group for a football triangle. Their students live on campus, they draw their student body from all parts of the country. The outcome of our games with the Navy and with the Army is not so important as that the best feeling of sport and good-fellowship always prevail. We are indeed happy to have Navy on our schedule: we trust it will continue so long and so amiably as to become a part of our best loved traditions.
There might be some who hate Notre Dame, but their numbers do not include any Navy fan that understands the big picture. I actually wish we would play in more than just football. Navy and Notre Dame are adversaries for one day out of the year. For the other 364 days, they are partners.
This is a blog about Navy sports, not general Naval Academy policy. It’s inevitable that the two subjects will collide occasionally, and when they do it’s usually bad news. Unfortunately, this doesn’t appear to be an exception.
It’s always a nervous time for Navy sports fans when a new Superintendent comes on board. Like everywhere in the Navy, the CO sets the tone for the whole command; at USNA, that includes athletics. No one person has quite the same ability to set Navy teams up for success or failure. Some Supes recognize the value of intercollegiate athletics in fulfilling the Naval Academy’s mission. Others pull out the word that keeps me awake at night: “de-emphasize.” And while I haven’t heard him say that word (yet), the new Supe, VADM Jeffrey Fowler, looks like he’s ready to de-emphasize just about everything. Or as he puts it, “minimize distractions.”
It’s apparent that when VADM Fowler arrived at USNA, he didn’t like what he saw and decided that changes had to be made. It’s hard sometimes to separate rumor from fact, especially living in Florida and not Annapolis. I’m extremely reluctant to discuss rumors as if they are facts on this blog, but a few changes have been reported widely enough that I think they’re worth addressing. These changes will have greater consequences than I think (and hope) were originally intended: mandatory study time each night (preventing mids from attending sporting events), and an end to movement orders to football games.
Last week the Superintendent wrote a letter to USNA alumni to share his vision of what the Naval Academy needs to be. He outlined three main ideas, including this:
Face of the Navy. The Naval Academy is a showplace. Every year millions of Americans view the Brigade in Annapolis or on television and walk away believing they have just seen the best of the United States Navy. We must remember that our midshipmen represent Sailors and Marines who have made the ultimate sacrifice as well as those who are forward deployed in harm’s way. Our behavior as an institution must reflect a commitment to excellence in everything we do.
In this, VADM Fowler is absolutely right. The question, then, is why he would want to lock the “Face of the Navy” behind closed doors where the American people will never see it. Navy sports are the single best recruiting tool that the Naval Academy has. Kids see midshipmen in the stands cheering for their team and want to be part of that camaraderie. I should know; I was one of those kids. Midshipmen attending sporting events are the cheapest, easiest way for the Naval Academy to reach the most people, whether it’s on the Yard or on the road. Tens of thousands of people will be at each football away game. Millions more will be watching on television. When people come to see a game at Navy, in any sport, midshipmen in the stands are what they want to see. When recruits make a visit to the Yard to watch a Navy game and see empty stands with no student support, what are they going to think? There are many ways to become a Naval officer; one of the things that set the Naval Academy apart from the others is the esprit de corps of the Brigade. When you keep midshipmen from attending sporting events, you take away the one way the American people– and potential midshipmen– can witness that esprit de corps for themselves. Want to crack down on appearance and behavior at games? Fine. Want to make sure that midshipmen who are struggling academically are focused on their studies and not the big soccer game? OK. But don’t keep the Brigade as a whole from supporting their friends and classmates on the field. Our sports teams will suffer for it, and the school in general will suffer for it. These two things should be unacceptable to an institution committed to “excellence in everything we do.”
When announcing these and other policy changes to the Brigade, VADM Fowler used the example of the Eisenhower Battle Group, which recently had a 7-month deployment with only 15 days of liberty. “Our midshipmen need to understand that’s what our Sailors are going through, and that’s who they’re going to lead,” he told reporters. I’m sure that VADM Fowler has been on enough deployments like that to understand what they do to people. They are draining, to say the least. I remember standing watch in CIC on my last deployment while my ship was pulling into Bahrain. Like several other ships, we had a telescopic video camera (with a monitor in CIC) that we used to help ID contacts and as a navigation aid. While making my way from station to station to make sure that everyone was doing their jobs, I noticed that the camera operator had locked the camera on something in the distance. It was a tree. I told him, “FC3, I don’t think that staring at that palm tree is going to keep us from hitting a fishing boat in the channel.” His response? “Sorry sir, I just forgot what a tree looked like.” I chuckled to myself because after 62 straight days underway, I think I had, too. That’s what a long deployment will do to you. The Sailors and Marines returning from cruise are exhausted. If you try to turn the Naval Academy into a 4-year deployment simulation, then the Ensigns and 2nd Lieutenants that you send to the Fleet will be exhausted too. That’s the last thing that our Sailors need. They need junior officers who are focused, excited to be there, chomping at the bit to get qualified, and injecting some energy into the Fleet. This doesn’t mean that USNA needs to be a “country club,” but it does mean that locking down the Brigade just to make them feel like they’re on a deployment probably isn’t the best approach.
Among the other changes that VADM Fowler is reportedly making is limiting what extracurricular activities are available to midshipmen. I’ve heard rumors about what ECAs might be on the chopping block, but as they’re only rumors at this point I won’t pass them on. I will say this, though: I hope the Supe is very, very careful about what ECAs are deemed as too “distracting” from Naval training. There’s a familiar quote that has been the basis for the training curriculum received by every Naval officer in this country’s history. Every plebe commits this quote to memory in order to remember what he or she is to become at the end of 4 years in Annapolis. As many of you already know, it begins like this:
It is by no means enough that an officer of the Navy should be a capable mariner. He must be that, of course, but also a great deal more. He should be as well a gentleman of liberal education, refined manners, punctilious courtesy, and the nicest sense of personal honor.
Naval officers that have served this country for generations were trained according to this philosophy, including the Superintendent himself. What VADM Fowler may consider “distracting” now could just as easily have been considered essential for over two centuries, through peace and war. Saying that “we are a nation at war” is no excuse to limit opportunities for midshipmen to grow and develop themselves in all kinds of endeavors. Naval officers are supposed to be renaissance men. They are expected to try new things and be exposed to the world around them. ECAs are as much a part of the shaping of Naval officers as their EE class. To tamper with that philosophy is to tamper with success.
There’s a lot more to this than just changing liberty policy. Those things come and go. This is a more fundamental shift in the idea of what a Naval officer should be, and I am afraid that it isn’t for the better. “Minimizing distractions” is one thing. Tunnel vision is another.
That piece of WTF information comes courtesy of Bill Wagner at The Capital. It was Jason’s choice, not the result of any military or academic shortcoming.
I have no idea what he was thinking. I think it is a huge mistake. He has probably heard that a million times by now from friends and advisors, so I’m sure he doesn’t need some dude who doesn’t know him running his piehole on the internet about it. But I will say this: I spent four years rooting like hell for him. I’m not going to turn my back on him and condemn him now. I will continue to root for him in whatever he does. I just hope he knows what he is doing.
No word yet on how the Navy will have him repay the cost of his education.
In other news, don’t miss Christian Swezey’s excellent piece on Sander Gossard and other prior enlisted football players. It’ll make you proud. So will Irv Spencer’s beard!