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December 18, 2012

Army Football, A Proposal to the USMA Superintendent, Part 4 of 6

Harold Wilson, former British Prime Minister, once said "He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery."

The following is the fourth of six parts that propose some approaches that could be taken to improve the competitiveness of Army Football. Each can be implemented independently or together with all or some of the other approaches. Almost everything that can be done is within the decision making power of the USMA Superintendent.

This addresses the need to gather data and benchmark the policies, processes and practices used by USNA and USAFA to field a consistently competitive football team.

Background

My 2008 article The Use of the 'Bone at Service Academies established that using the wishbone option and related offensive schemes has led to winning football teams. Just look at updated statistics by each team since the 1974 season (when Army first ran the wishbone):

  • Navy has used the option offense for 18 of the 37 seasons and every year since 2002. They used it for part of two other seasons not counted. They had 6 winning seasons out of 19 without it. They have had 11 winning seasons with it for a 61% success rate.

  • Air Force has used the option offense every season since 1981. In those 31 seasons (not counting 2012), the Falcons have had 25 winning seasons (82%).

  • Army has used the option during three separate periods for 23 out of the 39 seasons. They had one winning season (1977) when not using the option. Using the option offense, they have had nine winning seasons (39%).

  • USNA and USAFA are fielding winning and competitive football teams, year in and year out. Air Force is doing it playing in a conference where it typically meets the same six or seven opponents each season.

    Watching Air Force and Navy games this season, one sometimes sees a little piece about the life of a cadet or midshipman. What I have noticed is that the football players have classes in the morning, and their afternoon is free for football or rest.

    A parent of a female midshipman athlete mentioned recently that his child was provided a number of support services to make her time at USNA successful, such as having a systematic process of academic tutoring and monitoring. I do not recall ever hearing a West Point athlete's parent ever mentioning this.

    Living in Columbus, Ohio, I see an article about the Ohio State football team literally everyday in the newspaper. Of course I know that they don't take anywhere close to the academic load of a West Pointer, but I see that they spend most of their afternoon at football practice, film study, strength and conditioning and rest. I believe these practices are typical of most major football teams.

    I know that the NCAA limits these football activities to 20 hours per week during the season. I suspect that the typical West Point football player does not even get close to this. With morning practice of about 90-120 minutes for four days a week this season, USMA is still operating on a schedule like that done by the 1977 team. Talking to some Army coaches - things have significantly changed in all college sports in the last ten years - most college athletes now work at their sport twelve months a year, and they spend more time in the weight room, even members of the rifle team.

    We have heard that the Army coaches are well aware of what their peers are doing at USNA and USAFA, but I wonder if there has been a recent systematic documentation of the differences, with a subsequent review by the USMA senior leadership to make decisions to adopt new policies, processes and practices.

    It is in the long-term interests of both USNA and USAFA for USMA to field a winning, competitive Army Football team. While there may be some reluctance by a few individuals to share their best practices, most would.

    Proposal

    USMA should form a fact-finding or benchmark team consisting of representatives from the academic, tactical and athletic department to visit and review the policies, processes and practices used by USAFA and USNA regarding their football teams. The team would then document all existing differences between the three academies.

    The USMA Superintendent should then use the team's report by asking the Academic Board to organize a team to develop and recommend items for implementation and deployment.


    ... Stay Tuned For The Conclusion With Parts 5 & 6 This Weekend


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