Future schedules: Proceed with caution

There's a new era of good feeling and anticipation as the Army football season approaches. Hiring Rich Ellerson, who has made the changes both on offense and defense that most fans have waited for during these long, lost seasons, has created an excitement not seen in these parts for many, many years.

This excitement has extended to future scheduling. With games coming up at Yankee Stadium against the likes of Notre Dame, Boston College, Rutgers and Air Force, and a two game series with Oklahoma down the road, there's hope that not only can Army compete well in these games, but that they can actually win a few.

But it says here that the administration should make sure that they don't go overboard. There are examples in the recent past that should give fans some food for thought.

Most recently, Army has canceled games with BC, Georgia Tech and Ohio State. This was a good move. How tough would have it been to watch Paul Johnson show up at Michie and administer another butt-kicking with another team? The one that makes this writer extremely jealous was calling off the Ohio State game, only to see Navy take our place. That's like running home to fetch your big brother to take on the playground bully because you know the bully would wipe the streets with you. But you would have to say that Kevin Anderson did the right thing calling it off.

But there's other examples in the past when Army thought the Big Time was calling, only to see the program get ruined because of scheduling.

The best example was in the early 70's. Tom Cahill's surprising success in 1966-68 replacing Paul Dietzel led the powers to be to create a murderous schedule in the years to follow. The schedule read like a Who's who of college football. In 1970, there was a 4 game road trip against Nebraska, Tennessee, Notre Dame and Viginia, followed by a home game with Penn State. The longer time fans still have nightmares about the 1972 home opener, losing to Nebraska 77-7. Amazingly, the team came back to beat very good Texas Aggie team on the road the following week. It all came crashing down in '73, when more over scheduling resulted in a 0-10 record and Cahill's firing. The program remained a mess until the mid eighties, when a combination of Jim Young's wishbone and a reasonable schedule gave Army their first bowl opportunities. But even during those years, bad losses to 1-AA teams still kept things in perspective.

Then came the brief successes of the mid-90's. The feeling of "Happy Days are Here Again" were quickly dashed with Army's entrance in C-USA. Every year saw the Cadets playing teams they had little in common with, both on the field and off. Then came the decision that the only way Army could compete was to trash the long time option offense and go with a pro set. Along came Todd Berry and the worst ever period of football in the long history of the school.

So the feeling here is that while it's nice to schedule a Big Guy now and then, history should teach us that over scheduling killed the program in the past and could well do so again. Scheduling a Stoney Brook or a Hofstra doesn't sound like much fun, but the program needs to show that they can beat up teams at that level on a continual basis. Going off the deep end again could very well kill the excitement of this year in a big hurry.

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