As first reported here by the Marine Corps Times, 13 students at The Basic School (TBS) in Quantico were administratively discharged on May 20 for allegedly using cheat sheets last fall on a land navigation exam. Of all of the students who kicked out, only Ballard's name was leaked to the newspaper. In addition to Ballard's name, it was also pointed out that he was one of two former Navy football players who were dismissed. The other player was not identified.
The fact that Ballard's name made it to the press has not sat well with the 2008
"Somehow my name was released…I don't know how it got out there. I didn't seek out the press," said Ballard. "The Marine Corps Times called me and told me that they were going to run with the story and that they got my name from someone at the
As far as the cheating incident goes, Ballard made it clear to GoMids.com that there is only one person to point a figure at.
"I made a mistake. I don't blame anybody but myself. I love the
The process that Ballard speaks of is his official appeal to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. He has retained an attorney to help him with the paperwork, but there is no timetable for when his plea will be heard. So he is working on a few back-up plans.
The first one is trying to land with an NFL team.
The 6'1", 236 pound bruising fullback said that he has filmed "a couple of workouts for a few NFL teams" and that he hopes that one of them will "need a young fullback to come into camp" even if it is to be used as a "tackling dummy."
Another avenue open to Ballard is possibly landing a civilian job through his military contacts. Since he was administratively separated and not dishonorably discharged, he still has his secret clearance as well as his
Speaking of his alma mater, the Navy grad was particularly upset for bringing more bad news to the Academy.
"I hate that the (Naval) Academy is taking some heat from this. I have seen it mentioned on the internet that my training company that was involved with this incident was predominantly (Academy) graduates. That is not true," said Ballard.
"There were 300 guys in my company, and about four or five of them went to the
In recent years, there has been a lot of scrutiny placed on the
"I knew what I was doing was wrong. It had nothing to do with the Academy. Everyone knows right and wrong. You don't need to go to a military academy for four years and learn that. I just think it is reinforced more there. I think the concepts are pretty black and white."
While Ballard was adamant about taking full responsibility for his lapse in judgment, he thought that the land navigation exam given at TBS was "outdated" and inaccurate. In fact, he had to take the exam multiple times before he gave in to the temptation to use a couple answers from an answer key that made the rounds through his company.
"When I was questioned about it, I admitted it. I told the truth. It was about a week before graduation. I had known the names of 30 or 40 other guys who got it and was told if I gave (the investigating officer) more names that I could possibly receive a lighter punishment – perhaps not even be kicked out," said Ballard. "But I didn't think that I should benefit from telling on other lieutenants."
Ballard said that the test is so outdated that he is absolutely sure that the gouge that his company came into the possession of was passed on through the years by previous TBS classes.
"The problem is more widespread than the Marine Corps wants to admit. But they are thinking that since we kicked these 13 out, we solved the problem."
If given the opportunity to have a do over, Ballard said he would have brought the problems with the test as well as the answer key to the attention of his superiors, but what he did can't be undone.
"Something needs to be changed (with the test). The (cheating) is really widespread. It's just too easy to find a way around it, which is why I think so many people do it. I think it is out of sheer frustration with the outdated test, and because of the ease of access to a remedy," said Ballard.
"(The investigators) even went back and looked at old tests and discovered some training companies that had already graduated (TBS) and who are now serving in
Although Ballard does think he is being singled out as a football player by the Marine Corps Times, he said that he is used to seeing his name in the papers.
"You live and die in the spotlight (as a football player). Is it fair? No, but is it fair that my name gets in the paper for scoring a touchdown while a student who gets a 4.0 GPA doesn't? No, and I get that."
The most frustrating part for Ballard of this whole ordeal is the fact that he is facing an uphill battle to be able to serve alongside his friends and classmates.
"I was selected to be an infantry officer. That's what I wanted to do. That's what I was trained to do. I had my heart set on serving and I screwed up. Hopefully I will get a second chance (in the Marine Corps)."