Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving Army a Fighting Chance

A couple of weeks ago, as I was sweating it out on the elliptical and reading the closed captioning for an ESPN program, a story caught my eye. I was under the impression, until about 10 minutes ago, that it was a journalism piece about a change in the West Point Academy's policy regarding cadets going pro after graduation. But now as I try to research it further, I am beginning to suspect that I may have been watching ESPN Classic. The most recent story I can find dates back to 2007.

Regardless, we can (and do) still have opinions on cadets getting drafted after graduation (and the Army's subsequent reluctance to release them from a 3-year service contract).

To give you a bit of background, West Point cadets receive a college education, paid in full, in exchange for military service after graduation. They are also required to participate in some form of competitive athletics. The school is most well-known for their football team. Go Army! Beat Navy!

And Navy has been, since 1890, their long-standing rivalry. But not so long 2007, as a matter of fact, Army took the DoD's policy regarding cadets drafting into the NFL into their own hands. They issued a statement saying that graduates would be allowed to enter the draft and, if chosen, transfer to a duty station within the team's city. Their 3 years of active duty would be replaced with 6 years of reserve duty and they could henceforth enjoy the best of both worlds. 

Then the fit hit the they say. 

Former graduates argued that West Point is not a training ground for future professional is a system of education that results in the top gun of military leaders. If the boys want to play ball, then they should have applied to Michigan. And I have to say, I certainly understand the logic behind their argument. 

On the other hand (yes, there is always an other hand), winning football games is just as effective at boosting morale as a successful military strike. But what high school Friday night hero is going to apply to a school that will guarantee his football career ends in 4 years? The force must be strong to walk away from a chance at the pros in order to walk toward a trip to war. Army recruiters are wise and relentless...but even they would have difficulty bringing in top-notch talent. The only viable solution is a hybrid of policies, which would allow cadets the opportunity to enter the draft, in exchange for a longer service contract or an agreement to recruit for the Army after X amount of years. Can you imagine the size of a boot camp class that had just been recruited by Tim Tebow? 

I'm not sure what the right answer is. But Army hasn't found it yet. And whatever is decided, it must originate with the Department of Defense or you have Army playing by one set of rules with Navy playing by another. My personal opinion is that if a cadet is successful enough to warrant a first or second round draft pick, then let them go. They will only spend the next 3 years wishing they were on the playing field instead of the battle field. That's not the kind of Soldier I want as my husband's battle buddy. Perhaps even establish a policy that says they must take the millions they are making in the NFL and pay back their college that someone who can't throw a ball but can lead troops across Afghanistan can be a West Point grad, too.

What do you think is fair? Should West Point grads go straight to war, without passing go or collecting $200? Should Army even have a football team?


  1. Just discussing this with The Colonel and his wife - who happen to be our guests for the week - and we all agree that there is no simple answer.

    If you allow them to go, but require repayment of the money then another person has lost out on the slot at West Point.

    The Colonel certainly agrees with you about not wanting an NFL wantabe to be his Battle Buddy.

    Our vote: 6 years in the researve. (I'd prefer 8 years. It needs to be a long enough trade off that they provide real service.)

    Happy Thanksgiving, Ally and Neal!

  2. I'm good with the hybrid policy, but I do think giving back what they make in some form of return would be good. Since they are getting their education paid for in return for active service I'm assuming? I clearly don't know enough about this, but if they're not willing to serve after why do they attend these schools?

  3. Hmmmm....I can see both sides of this. I say, let them go, but they must pay it back. In full. If they fail to make it big in the NFL and cant afford to cough up the cash, then they have to serve 6-8 years in the reserves, or can serve their original 3 years if they go active duty. No exceptions. None. And there has to be somesort of time limit. None of this taking 10 years to pay it back, this isnt a mortgage. Ha!

    As far as the slot at West Point having been used on someone who doesnt plan to serve, well, I would bet when they started out, their intention was to serve. But plans change, and I know personally that what my plan was when I first started college was no where near what it was when I finally finished all those years later.

    Plus, how many, or what percentage of WP players are wanting to go pro or even have a chance? I dont really follow college fb so I have no idea, but i bet its not that many, or at least not enough to claim they are denying hundreds of kids who want to serve, a slot at the school.

  4. I actually don't feel a hybrid should even be possible. I think if you go to West Point, you go active after. Having a very good friend go and play for West Point, and I can guarantee he would be upset if one of his "brothers" went to the NFL instead of fighting with them. These guys are trained to be the elite overseas. I know it could be argued for the other side to go reserve, but I agree . . . you can go to another school and succeed. You don't need to take the spot of someone who will go and fight.