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December 26, 2012
Army Football, A Proposal to the USMA Superintendent, Part 5 of 6
Chuck Knox, former head coach for the Seattle Seahawks, Buffalo Bills and Las Angeles Rams, once said "Football players win football games."
The following is the fifth 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 provide the Army football team with enough recruits.
Over the last few years, I got the opportunity to read several books about Army Football during the Red Blaik years. One thing that stood out was the recruiting constraints that he was under, and how these same constraints exist today.
Even in the late 1950s, before the emergence of pro football and college football becoming the minor leagues to the NFL, Army was having difficulty in recruiting enough players. Not that the high academic standards posed some difficulty, it appears that the USMA administration played a significant part in hindering recruiting enough players.
In those days, substitution rules were strict, and in 1958, one could substitute for a player, but they could not return to the field until the next quarter. A large number on each college football team played both offense and defense, and playing for fifty or more minutes was very common. These players were also more likely to get injured, and Blaik found himself in situations during the 1957 season of barely able to field a team.
In the late 1957, Red Blaik requested that he be allowed to recruit 35 men for the incoming class - due to the need to have enough players to overcome injuries. His request was reduced to 24, the number that he had been allowed to recruit to in previous seasons. He argued some more, and got a few more added by the USMA administration. Still, he felt he was being restricted in a way that made his teams uncompetitive.
During recent football seasons, there have been a number of athletes seriously injured, and the depth chart in a number of positions appears to be lacking. This suggests that there are not enough football players to field a winning team during the season. The average sized football team in recent years has been about 100 players.
Some former Army head football coaches have had large football teams with about 150 players. These take a lot of resources to field, and require assistance from voluntary coaches from the USMA staff and faculty or the civilian community. But these do offer a strategic or tactical reserve for the first string.
Now we all know that recruits at USMA go through a similar process as does everyone else in applying for admissions to West Point. Even football players have to meet the high academic, physical and medical standards required to be admitted. So we are not talking about lowering standards, only opening up the numbers to allow for enough players to field a competitive, winning football team.
Recent Army football players have demonstrated high standards, graduating high in the class and being appointed as First Captain, Regimental Commanders and other cadet leadership positions. I do suspect that athletes are represented in summer school, but I doubt if they are as high as what I saw at the University of Oklahoma summer session in 2003. So adding to the number of authorized recruits should not reduce the quality of a new class of cadets.
Today, Army athletics does assign a recruiting number of slots to each sports team. Now AAA does operate with a budget, and each cadet on each team does cost a certain amount to equip, train and support. Is Army football given enough slots to recruit enough players for the team?
Consider increasing the number of recruits authorized each year for the Army Football team.