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.