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The Official Newsletter of the West Point Parents Club of Mississippi
Volume 2003 • Issue 1 January / February
••• Guest Author •••


Some Thoughts by Milton Waldoff, President

New or Prospective Cadet and Parent Link

Editorial by Douglas Belk, Ph.D., Webmaster & President-elect

Guest Author (Jere Forbus' moving article"Upon Fields of Friendly Strife ..." about the state of Army football)

Cadet Perspective (Interesting indeed!)

Cadet Features (Birthdays, Recognitions, etc.)

Special Points of Interest


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Upon the fields of friendly strife...
by Jere Forbus

More than forty years have passed since Army last fielded a football team that was competitive at the very top of college football. It is, thus, statistically probable that only half the parents of present-day cadets had been born when the Black Knights haunted the ranks of the nation's powerhouses.

So it has been four decades since the cadets were at the pinnacle. Now they are at the bottom, by consensus the worst of the 117 colleges that play NCAA Division 1-A football. Things have never been this bad. Never. Losing is anathema at West Point-intolerable. Defeat does not go away with the Christmas leave. No, it persists through the bitter West Point winter, in what the cadets call "gloom period," covering the gray rocks like a pall. Something must be done.

There must be a corollary to the axiom, "If it ain't broke...." And that would be, "If it's broke, fix it." Well, it's broke. The proposition, then, becomes a matter of how to fix it.

It is awfully inviting to attack with conventional resolve. "We'll fire this coaching staff, bring in someone who knows how to win. We'll double and redouble the recruiting effort. There are plenty of kids out there who can play football at this level and simultaneously brook differential calculus. We'll launch a desperate reverse engineering program-take the system apart, inspect, then reengineer and enhance as necessary. Then we will drive on to the fray just like we have always done.

It won't work. We'll continue to get our heads beaten in every Saturday because the game of college football has changed far more than West Point and the Army team have changed, or can change.

Forty years ago, and before, when Army could go head-to-head with any college team in the country, the game was played by a bunch of college kids playing another bunch of college kids. This is no longer true. Speaking now in terms of typicality and not universal, it is obvious the opponent the cadet faces on the field is bigger, faster, and much more athlete than student. The guy the cadet looks at across the line of scrimmage cannot do half the things a cadet can do and probably nothing as well. Except for football. And that is because he has grown up cultivating little more than playground prowess; he has been, for as long as memory serves him, mesmerized by the lure of the money and the glamour of professional football

Sure, there are many other reasons-from cultural to biological-why the playing field is tilted to the disadvantage of the cadets. But one of them is not that the cadets are not athletically gifted. They are, and they are superbly intelligent; they are honorable; and they are to be the leaders of the nation. Pit student body against student body, and Army wins the national championship-every year. Under present conditions, however, the cadets must grapple with athletes who wouldn't know a pixel from a hypothesis, who couldn't lead a lemming to the cliff, who couldn't qualify for West Point if we added their weight to their ACT score.

Is this elitist? Yep. But elitism-that's what West Point is all about. That's why we can not, must not, be last among the football-playing colleges. We must fix it, and we must fix it with full allegiance to General MacArthur's inviolable counsel: "There is no substitute for victory."

The obvious ploy is to sell out, to succumb to whatever under-the-table scheming in recruiting and coaching is required to succeed. We could cut deals with star athletes that would open the possibilities of professional football in lieu of service in the Army. We could marshal the prodigious force of the assembled graduates to cajole and bribe prospective football heroes. We could lower admission standards for recruited athletes.

No. No. No. We can do none of that. Unwavering fidelity to the mission of the United States Military Academy is imperative. Loosely stated that mission is to educate, train, and inspire the Corps to a lifetime of selfless service to the nation. We don't get there by compromising ever on anything.

Then what do we do? Well, we have to do this: we must embark on session of creative and critical thinking followed quickly by resolute action. We must come to believe that football, as now played in Division 1-A, is not nearly as important as it is commonly thought to be. We must adapt to the unthinkable and enthusiastically pursue a program of competing with institutions that have an acceptably realistic concept of what "scholar-athlete" means and, further, hold their athletes to the same academic standards that obtain to their student body in general. Perforce we must withdraw from Conference USA and assume the status of NCAA Division 1-AA, abiding by that level of rules as those rules apply to Army's unique situation. We must replace the current football coaching staff and athletic administration with Westpointers who fully comprehend the role of football to the Corps and our intercollegiate relationships.

Does this mean Ivy League? Yes-that is ideal-but only if they are up to getting hammered by Army. Many years ago there were wonderful rivalries between Army and Yale, Army and Harvard, and so on. In fact, when the concept "Ivy League" was originated, the inclusion was Army, Princeton, Yale, and the others. But if the Ivy's don't want us, or if that doesn't work for any reason, there are better solutions. Our long-standing philosophy of scheduling our traditional Eastern rivals and, as well, playing a true national scheme on a rotating basis will work since the cadets come from all over the country. We should be able to scrape up games with Rice, Vanderbilt, Cal Poly, Citadel, Duke, and the likes.

This undertaking will demand much courage, candor, and clear thinking by all who have to approve it, execute it, or hold an attachment to West Point and Army football. Guts-that's what the Superintendent and the other principals at West Point and Department of the Army are gonna need lots of. It's a good bet that some cadets, some parents, and nearly all "Disgruntled Old Graduates" will mount stiff resistance to the whole proposition. Candor by those who can explain the necessity must induce the clear thinking by those who must accept. Worst of all will be the specter that we are profaning MacArthur's immutable words, "no substitute for victory." On the contrary. We are but revising the application so that we can better "sew the seeds that, on other days on other fields, will bear the fruits of victory."

There is a stillness to the guns. It is ephemeral. We shall again build the victory fires along the Hudson.

Jere Forbus
Class of 1960

Editor's Note: Jere is a regular contributor to the WPPC-MS newsletter. We appreciate his time, his talents, and his great penchant for writing wonderful stories. While the articles we print do not necessarily reflect the views or endorsements of any or all of the WPPC-MS members and this newsletter, we do appreciate their contributions. We do welcome others who wish to contribute to our newsletter. If you so choose, please send an e-mail to the newsletter editor with your name, full mailing address, telephone number, and attach your article in Word, RTF, WordPerfect, or simple text format to the e-mail. Please do take further note that articles or stories that detract from the mission of the academy will not be published, under any circumstances.

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