Prosperity: Handle With Care

The measure of a growing and emergent program is taken when a team so used to being a doormat suddenly finds itself in a game where it's actually expected to win. This is only more true when a team is favored to win a road game.

Therefore, Army's game this Saturday against the East Carolina Pirates is hugely significant in the early and quite thriving (thank you) life of the Bobby Ross era.

To be perfectly honest, college football games should not be subjected to betting. This only increases both the negative perceptions and realities surrounding what is ostensibly an amateur sport... and which, at West Point, is legitimately and honorably an amateur pursuit. The fact that a football program generates income while 20-year-old kids make no money is enough of a point of contention; adding gambling to the mix, and having Americans make money off teams like the Black Knights and Pirates, should be so abhorrent as to be beyond discussion.

But it's not. Like Mount Everest, it's just there.

So, as a matter of raw analysis and not as a matter of entertainment, it's unavoidably significant as a news story that Army is favored by two points to beat East Carolina. It does not cheapen this game to refer to the betting line; rather, it's a way to illustrate, in a very tangible way, how far the Army program has come and how high the profile and cachet of West Point football have been elevated in a very short time under Bobby Ross.

And when you get away from that perhaps cold or unromantic way of approaching this contest, the football merits suggest that the folks in Vegas just might be on to something.

Ron Zook just got fired at Florida today: this happened partly as a result of Florida's precipitous decline on defense. Such a deterioration might not have happened had a man named John Thompson not left as the Gators' defensive coordinator. But Thompson did leave Gainesville for Greenville, N.C., to take over the East Carolina program. In the time he's spent with the Pirates, however, the Pirate Ship has sunk, largely due to a ton of leaks in the defense. Thompson might find himself in Zook's position--a fired coach--if he doesn't do something to drastically reverse the fortunes of a sagging East Carolina program. When you look at the directions of the Black Knights and the Pirates, and you compare the credibility of the coaches and the respective rates at which they've been able to squeeze maximum productivity out of their players, there's no question that Bobby Ross dwarfs Thompson across the board.

Add in the factor of momentum, and you clearly have a game in which Army--by any measurable on-the-field football standard--stands to win.

All that's left is for Army to handle this occasion with the maturity that an ascendant team ought to devote to such a game.

Will Army handle prosperity? Is this program ready to take that "next big step?"

Find out Saturday when the two-point favorite takes the field on the road.


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