Kevin Anderson Interview, PartTwo

In NCAA sports, an athletic director's success is directly linked to the football team – just ask Nebraska's former director, Steve Pederson. Is that fair? In part two of my interview with Kevin Anderson, I asked him about that, and also about upcoming schedules for Army. Also in this part are Anderson's thoughts about the letter he wrote to Georgia Tech and how it played out in the media.

Prior to Army's game with Georgia Tech on October 20, Kevin Anderson gave a letter to the Yellow Jackets' Athletic Director Dan Radakovich informing him that the Black Knights would be opting out of the 2008 game between the two schools. Specifically in the letter, Anderson wrote: "After evaluating the limited depth on our roster, we realize that playing consecutive games against schools from major conferences is not in the best interest of our program or our cadets. Under similar circumstances in years past, our players have suffered numerous injuries that have threatened both their athletic and military careers."

Several fans were angered by his remarks because they thought they were disrespectful to Army cadets.

"I think some people took what I said out of context," said Anderson. "I was just concerned about being competitive against those kinds of teams – week in and week out. We don't have that kind of size and depth."

"What I was trying to express to him was – a prime example – when we played back-to-back games with Wake Forest and Boston College, we lost 3 or 4 of our lineman and you know all service academy's depth is a very difficult thing to achieve…so we had to go and play a plebe who came in the academy at 285 pounds and was down to 245…that's what I'm talking about. It doesn't give us a fair advantage when we are not as deep as these other teams…that are averaging 295-300 pounds."

But considering that the letter was made public, Anderson admits now that he should have used a different approach.

"I would have handled it differently…[for] one, I thought that the letter was…I was sending that letter to that athletic director and I thought that it would be dealt with between the two of us. I was a little taken back that he did share it with the media."

"I'm not embarrassed by anything that I said in that letter. It's my job to make sure that I put these young people in the best possible light to be successful and to compete," he continued.

Even though some fans were discouraged about some of the wording in the letter, the fact that Army is looking to lighten the schedule has been greeted favorably by most.

As to what Anderson would like Army's upcoming football schedules to look like, well, he's looking to a common opponent as an example.

"I don't have to go any further than to talk to [] about how [Navy Athletic Director] Chet [Gladchuck] came in and how he's been able to get that competitive balance in Navy's schedule. When he first came [to Annapolis] there were some things he had to change on his schedule to get that balance."

"Coming in here, what has been inherited has been a challenge to get a competitive balance," said Anderson.

So when exactly will Army fans be able to see the results of Anderson's efforts?

"Right now there are a couple things I'm working on to finalize the schedule and until I do that I'm not comfortable releasing that information because some things could change and once you make this public sometimes assumptions are made [and it] can create ill will. I think in the next couple of weeks I should have the last piece to the puzzle and then I'll announce who we will be playing next year."

Does that mean Army is still looking for opponents next year?

"I'll tell you this. There are two schools we are trying to help out that have scheduling problems. And that can create some changes in games, and times, and everything else. And until those two areas are straightened out, I'm not comfortable commenting on the schedule."

Fair enough, but Army fans don't want to know about just next year, they want to be able to look on the West Point web site and see several seasons worth of future schedules. For example, Air Force publicizes games in its media guide through the 2016 season.

Can Army do that?

"Yes, we would like to do that and once we start finalizing things, we will be releasing that kind of information," said Anderson.

As to where those contests may be held, according to Anderson, fans shouldn't be surprised to see the Army football team playing in their backyard.

"Our philosophy has been that we feel we are America's team and we're going to try and play throughout the country and expose Army football to as much of the country as possible."

Regardless of who Army is playing, it's very likely that Anderson's success or failure as the athletic director at West Point will be forever linked to how many wins the team produces on the field. Just this past month, Nebraska officials terminated its athletic director, Steve Pederson because of the lack of success by the Cornhuskers' football team.

So does Anderson feel it's fair that even though he oversees 25 intercollegiate teams that ultimately, his success, and possibly his job could inevitably be linked to the football team alone?

"That's a good question," said Anderson. "It's part of the job and when you come in and take this job it's something that you have to accept as being part of it – fair or not fair – it's a reality. And I accept that as being a reality."

Arguably one of the biggest moves Anderson has made thus far in his two-plus years on the job was the decision to hire Stan Brock to replace Bobby Ross.

In this interview and others, Anderson has said that the timing of Ross's departure wasn't ideal, but it was a reality he was already thinking about when it happened.

"I had been prepared [for his departure] because eventually a year or two down the road [Ross] was going to retire – he made that very clear to me. So I had already started putting together a list – and in fact I had used a search firm as a consultant and we went through a litany of names and once we went through and we looked at it – the best person for the job was Stan," said Anderson.

"He was competitive with most people who were on the list. Now some of the folks who were on that list were hired by other people…so we looked at it at the end of the day and Stan was always on that list – he was always on the top of that list and so the decision wasn't that difficult," continued Anderson.

"The other thing is Stan has really embraced what the academy is all about and what cadet-athletes are all about. He had an advantage over many people because of just the learning curve coming into any academy and understanding what it's all about."

However, some critics have wondered why give someone with no head-coaching experience at the Division I-A level a multi-year contract. After all, with the timing of Ross's announcement, one could argue that an interim label would have been justified. Just this year, with the untimely and tragic death of Indiana's Terry Hoeppner, the Hoosiers decided to go that route, initially giving his successor, Mike Lynch, an interim label.

Anderson identified recruiting as the reason for signing Stan to an extended contract.

"If I was recruiting against a coach with a one-year contract…the first thing I would say to that player is why would you go play for that person when they are not committed to him? He could just be there for one year and you're signing up for four, possibly five years," said Anderson.

Army's athletic director is definitely committed to his coach, but what does his coach think about his athletic director sitting in on strategy meetings?

To explain, Anderson said that he will attend a retreat in the off-season to discuss football schemes on both sides of the ball. One could only imagine how a coach like Steve Spurrier would react if his boss decided to drop in on such a session.

According to Anderson, his input and Brock's openness to it comes down to a philosophy taught at the Military Academy.

"I think just like the Naval Academy, what West Point is all about is leadership and developing leaders and I think every good leader will look at what they are doing and if it's successful then [they will ask] how can I make it better, and if it's not [they will ask] how can I improve – what do I need to change," said Anderson.

"All we need to do is look statistically and see how we've played and we know that offensively we struggled this year and we do need to overhaul and look at doing things differently and I think Stan is demonstrating that he is a good leader – we can't stay the status quo and keep trying to force this because it's not working," continued Anderson.

Anderson also stated that it was always the plan to look into converting Army's offense to an option-oriented scheme after Brock's first season. Critics would argue if that was the case, why hire Tim Walsh to be the offensive coordinator because he has virtually no background in the option.

Anderson disagrees.

"I was in Oregon when Tim was the coach at Portland State and he ran variations of the spread. He ran variations of what West Virginia does now…and what Wake Forest does - so he just didn't have one offensive philosophy. I think Tim's a good offensive mind. It's just like Paul Johnson. Paul was over in Hawaii and they didn't run the option when he was in Hawaii. So I mean you have to adapt to the situation, and I think good coaches are able to do that," said Anderson.

Even with the major challenges that Anderson faces, there is no place he would rather be and no job he would rather have.

"There's no better place to work than the Academy. I get up every day with a smile on my face wanting to come to work even after we've lost a football game because I get to work with some of the best young people in this country."

There is no doubt that if Anderson could help produce a winning football program it would go a long way towards putting smiles on the faces of a lot of Army fans as well.

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