Army AD: Policy Should Not Divide Academies

West Point's Athletic Director Kevin Anderson believes Navy and Air Force should adopt a similar policy to Army's which would allow its football players to pursue NFL careers while serving on active duty. Calling it "better for our country," Anderson says the policy has more off-the-field benefits than on-the-field ones; and he believes the evidence so far supports his conclusion.

Kevin Anderson believes the policy that allowed Caleb Campbell to sign an NFL contract after being drafted by the Detroit Lions in the seventh round last month will give the U.S. Army an advantage more than the West Point football team.  And he is frustrated with critics, to include his colleagues, who have spoken out negatively about the policy.

 

"I've read several of these columns, and blogs and I know some of my colleagues have made references to different policies, and how people are interpreting them. And it kind of disappoints me that they have taken the stance they have knowing the information that has been shared - and then basically being somewhat derogatory about it," said Anderson.

 

"At the time, working with the Secretary of the Army, he thought this would be a good thing.  We established a policy and we've moved forward and we implemented it. And now everybody wants us to either stop it because they feel it is unfair to their recruiting for their football team.  Well, that is not our purpose.  Our purpose was never to have this be just an athletic or football [policy].  We are trying to attract the best people to become Army officers.  That's the motivation behind it," continued Anderson. 

 

"Here's what I see on how it gives us an advantage.  It's going to allow us to go out and attract young men that might have never considered serving their country in the military."

 

As far as whether or not the policy can give Army an advantage over its rivals in a recruiting capacity on the football field, Anderson believes it could, but it has not worked so far.

 

"We lost to Air Force and Navy last year.  Since I've been here we've had the pro-option alternative.  What kind of advantage do you see on the field that the policy has given us in the last three years?"

 

Anderson continued, "It could possibly give us an advantage [down the road], but if you look at the data and if you look at the statistics, we – for the last three years – are far behind Navy and Air Force in football.  And we had this policy in place, and we've been using it."

 

And while there has not been any evidence yet of a benefit on-the-field, according to Anderson, the publicity surrounding Campbell in particular, has been priceless.

 

"You saw the draft, when Caleb was on the stage, in his uniform. People who were not aware of where West Point is, what kind of academy [it is], what it represents, [were informed].  We were in millions and millions of homes.  What better showplace and what better message does that send to the Army and the military then to see this young man and to have the fans go nuts, chanting "U-S-A"…Anyone who is affiliated with the military should have been very proud of that day."

 

Anderson also pointed to West Point's contract with ESPN as further evidence that the priorities of the athletic department are in sync with the best interests of the U.S. Army.

 

"When we negotiated with ESPN to cover our football team on television, we could have gone to other networks and made more money. But the purpose of us becoming a partner with ESPN is because they worked with us to televise these games worldwide and let every person in the military have access to our games - free of charge," said Anderson.

 

"What we do around here, and you might find someone to beg to differ with me, [is to] better serve the U.S. Army and the military [by] using athletics as one of the tools to do that."

 

Not only does Anderson believe that the policy is good for West Point, he thinks that the Naval Academy and Air Force Academies could benefit from it as well.  When asked if he would be in favor of the Navy and the Air Force following the Army's lead, Anderson was all for it.

 

"If the Air Force and Navy establish [a similar] policy, I think it would be better for the country.  I hope that [Navy and Air Force] can do it.  I sincerely hope that they figure it out and we don't have to have this discussion anymore."

 

"It's mind boggling that we are supposed to be one team, fighting one battle for the freedom of the country but now because of this, we are divided and [there is a perception that] somebody has an advantage," stated Anderson.

 

But what if the tables were turned and Anderson was the athletic director at either the Naval Academy or Air Force Academy?  Doesn't he see their point of view that it is an advantage for West Point?

 

"I wouldn't have an issue with it because I'm looking at this [and] I don't see that we're going to get an onslaught of [NFL-caliber] kids." 

 

Sure, West Point isn't going to get a lot of NFL talent, but what about those head-to-head recruiting battles with Navy and Air Force?  Surely, Coach Brock can use Campbell's case as a reason to choose Army over its rivals. 

 

Anderson wasn't so sure that would happen.

 

"My experience in college athletics has been that if your institution is right for the young person, and they develop a relationship with the coach, that [this policy] will have very little to do with recruiting."

 

But what does Anderson say to critics who believe that West Point graduates, like Caleb Campbell, should be sent into combat instead of recruiting duty.

 

"Let's be honest, we don't send every Army officer to the front line.  If we take all three academies – [they all] have guys who go back and are professors or tactical officers.  All three academies have people serving in the World Class Athlete Program.  There are many ways to serve and not everybody goes to Iraq and Afghanistan." 

 

There is also the argument that Campbell, who hasn't served a day of ‘real' duty in his life, is not the ideal recruiter.

 

"[Critics] are assuming [the players] will have a career in professional football and that they will never serve.  But if you look at the lifespan of an NFL player, it's a very short period of time," stated Anderson. 

 

"So you know, in this process, they don't have to get out of the Army.  And so, they will lead at some point.  It is my understanding that [Campbell and Viti] both [have a desire] to serve in a capacity where they are leading soldiers in whatever [assignment] they are given."

 

Anderson admits that once he started listening to all sides of the debate, he asked himself if West Point was doing the "right thing."  An email from the mother of two former West Point cadets who are serving in Iraq helped to put his mind at ease.

 

In the email, the mother said that when she heard about the policy, she was concerned, so she spoke with her two sons about it.

 

"She told me that her two sons not only supported it, but they applauded it.  It gave them something to talk about and it helped morale," said Anderson.  "She said that if her sons were ‘good with it' and they are serving in Iraq, then ‘I'm good with it.'"

 

"At the end of the day, you put the eleven guys on the field, and you compete. And then the best team wins.  And then after that, we are all going and we're going to fight for the freedom of this country.  And it might be in different capacities, but our mission is all the same.  And if [the policy] betters the country and betters the people that we attract to do that, I support it," said Anderson.

 

"Some of our best officers leading the fight in Iraq and Afghanistan are football players.  I mean we get that all the time from soldiers serving.  So maybe one day [all three academies] will adopt the policy across the board.  I doubt if [our schools] are going to be a hot bed for the National Football League."

 

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In Part Two of my interview with Army's Athletic Director, to be posted here soon, we discussed another burning topic with Army football fans – the secrecy surrounding the team's offense.  We also talked about some of the big plans Army has for its fans in the upcoming season.

 

If you have a comment for David, send him an email.    

 


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