Changing West Point in the name of football

Changing West Point in the name of football February 25, 2014

West Point has very high standards.  It’s hard to get into.  Cadets have to be outstanding not just in academics but in leadership and other personal qualities.  This is because West Point is not just a good college.  It’s where our elite army officers are formed.

But it doesn’t have a good football team!  And it’s lost to Navy for the past 12 years!  How can that be?  Something must be done!

So some school officials, alumni, and army brass are proposing that West Point change its admissions standards so that the athletic program can recruit really good football players.From faculty member Dwight S. Mears,  West Point is placing too much emphasis on football – The Washington Post:

On Dec. 15, shortly after Army football’s 12th consecutive loss to the U.S. Naval Academy, the superintendent of West Point, Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen , announced that he was considering institutional changes to build a winning program. “When America puts its sons and daughters in harm’s way, they do not expect us to just ‘do our best’ . . . but to win,” he wrote. “Nothing short of victory is acceptable. . . . Our core values are Duty, Honor, Country. Winning makes them real.”

Soon after, Army Athletic Director Boo Corrigan argued that West Point ought to take “an educated risk” by relaxing admission requirements in favor of superior football recruits. The superintendent has said that he does not intend to relax standards, but Corrigan’s views are backed by powerful alumni, including retired Brig. Gen. Pete Dawkins, a Heisman Trophy winner who has participated in three study groups assessing Army football. “I think it’s crucial that West Point stand out as a place of winners,” Dawkins recently said. Thus his view that it’s “entirely fair to accept some risks” in the admission of football recruits.

As a West Point graduate and faculty member, I find many of these arguments troubling. Academy leaders and alumni have often asserted that performance on the gridiron has a direct impact on our ability to win our nation’s wars and that we therefore have a moral imperative to win in football. But the facts do not support that assertion.

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