Sunday, March 30, 2008

West Point Screws Up

I've written before about how disappointed I am that West Point and the army have started down the road to letting graduated cadets play pro sports instead of serving in the army--especially during wartime!

Let's read that entire post linked above:

We West Pointers howled when Napoleon McCallum got to play for the Raiders while still serving in the Navy, and when David Robinson was released early from his service commitment to play basketball. We saw honor when Chad Hennings served his time in the air force and then played for the Dallas Cowboys. How superior we felt to Navy.

Until now.

Is West Point to become just another farm team for the pros, with recruiting being the excuse given?

It just got worse.

Army is offering its top athletes a side door to professional sports. West Point has implemented an alternative service option program that allows cadets to turn pro – and play – right away.

Cadets accepted into the program "will owe two years of active service in the Army, during which time they will be allowed to play their sport in the player-development systems of their respective organizations and be assigned to recruiting stations. If they remain in professional sports following those two years, they will be provided the option of buying out the remaining three years of their active-duty commitment in exchange for six years of reserve time."

The Air Force Academy and Naval Academy do not offer such a program. Both academies require two years of active service upon graduation before presenting the option of swapping the final three years of active time for six years in the reserves.

Recruiting duty is important, but please don't insult my intelligence by saying that these men (and potentially women) are performing a service to the army--especially one worth 6 figures, the cost of a West Point education--by playing pro sports. And those 6 figures don't include the incalculable opportunity cost of the loss of a potential highly trained officer who couldn't serve the army and the country because a future professional athlete got that slot at West Point.

From West Point's web site, here's the school's mission. Every plebe is required to memorize it:

USMA mission

"To educate, train, and inspire the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character committed to the values of Duty, Honor, Country and prepared for a career of professional excellence and service to the Nation as an officer in the United States Army."

Why memorize it when we don't uphold it? This program doesn't even uphold the values of Duty, Honor, Country.

It's a disgrace and an affront to everything I was taught there.

Update, 7/27/08: First the Army screwed up by telling this lieutenant he could play pro football. Then it compounded that screw-up by pulling the rug out from under him in full view of the sports-watching public:

The Army had initially said Campbell, a football standout who played for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, could fulfill his military obligation by serving two years as a recruiter in his spare time. Academy graduates are usually required to serve five years...

But after a much publicized difference in policy between the Army and other services, Campbell's NFL dreams have been put on hold. The wartime exception for Campbell -- essentially his ticket out of joining the fight in Iraq -- rubbed many in the military the wrong way.

On Wednesday, the Army sent a letter to the Detroit Lions informing them that a change in Army policy means Campbell would have to cease getting ready to play for the football team.

Could they have screwed this up any worse?


Ellen K said...

I wonder how Roger Staubach feels about that. He served out his term in, I think, the Navy and the Cowboys held his spot until he finished. But then again, ESPN is talking about televising high school football. If there's enough revenue to do that, then there's enough for school districts to be able to cut them loose financially. Professional goals are seeping down to high school, how long before we see scouts at junior high games? You say it's crazy, but then who would have thought that high school sports would be advertised and shown on TV?

Law and Order Teacher said...

My alma mater just got a commitment from a sophomore in high school. When I was a soph I didn't have a clue about what I wanted to do with my life. I can only imagine what the pressure is like for these kids. Of course, becoming a pro in high school is the next option. I agree with your post. It does seem that the service acadamies are losing sight of their mission. I wasn't intelligent enough to get into one, but my son was. He opted out because of the service requirement. Little did he know all he had to be is a great athlete and that wouldn't have applied to him.

Dr Pezz said...

Scouts are already in junior high schools. There is a kid in Seattle in the paper a month ago who is already being followed by scouts. He plays against kids 4-6 years his elder and holds his own.

It's getting worse daily. Fortunately, this kid is an honor roll student.

Fritz J. said...

When recruiting athletes in order to have a winning season becomes more important than training officers, something is very wrong. I fully understand that serving five years after graduation limits who can be recruited, but I don't consider that a drawback.

Anonymous said...

I am a West Point cadet. You have to look at the intricate situation the Academy is in. Most of our funding does not come from the federal government; it comes from the Alumni. Winning Army Football games is very important to the funding of the Academy, because if we do not win games, graduates become reluctant to donate. For example a multi-million dollar indoor practice facility was just built. It was paid for by graduates. Allowing some athletes to go pro will allow West Point’s name to become better known, and the option to go pro will increase talent for recruitment. That in turn increases funding for the Academy's mission. West Point used to be made up of men like Pete Dawkins, that caliber of person is difficult to obtain in today’s society. Encourage the nation’s children. Tell them that military service is good. You as parents make the sacrifice and push your sons and daughters into harms way. I do not see that happening anytime soon. Maybe you should write your congressmen/women and complain that taxes need to be increased to pay a Private in the Army more than 1600 dollars a month to lay his/her life on the line protecting your freedom. How much are your monthly salaries and do you willing offer your life? How much would someone have to pay you to conduct 15 month deployments every other year? This is an anonymous posting because I would be severely scolded for espousing these ideas.

Darren said...

I am a West Point graduate. I understand the argument about football, I just don't share it. The Mission of the Academy is not to train football players for recruiting duty, it's to train officers for service. It's entertaining to me how the army *adds* years to an officer's service commitment when that officer gets a graduate degree, but will let out a pro athlete because of some amorphous benefit that *might* accrue to recruiting.

How would I like deployments? I sought them when I was a lieutenant. In fact, even after I got out I tried to get a civilian job training the Saudis because I had so many friends in the desert in the prelude to Gulf War I.

Taxes don't need to be raised. Backbone must be sought.

Who do you think would scold you for espousing your thoughts? Highly inappropriate, whoever it is.