"In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the strange, mournful mutter of the battlefield. But in the evening of my memory I come back to West Point. Always there echoes and re-echoes: Duty, Honor, Country."
-Gen. Douglas MacArthur
I can think of no other finer words that have ever been spoken on the place, and the ideals for what our nation's service academies stand for. Duty, Honor, Country are words and ideals that are often lost in today's technological and greed driven world. Even in the college football world, I often wonder if they can co-exist with the realities of what the sport has become. A decision, by our Military brass may have just done that, to which these ideals and the modern day realities can co-exist.
Recently the military announced the Alternative Service Option program for athletes from the service academies. Under guidelines of the program, Cadets will be allowed to play sports with their respective professional teams while assigned to recruiting stations for two years as long as they remain under contract. Should they retain professional contracts following two years, they will be offered the option of “buying out” the remaining three years of their active-duty commitment in exchange for six years in the Reserves. What their duties would entail would be that they would act as recruiters while working in the NFL, NHL, etc..
The days of Roger Staubach, Pete Dawkins and Doc Blanchard seem like a distant memory. It was a long time ago, when our service academies truly challenged for the top spots nationally. Yes I know, Navy has had some good teams recently, but what I'm talking about is the chance to possibly be thought of as our nation's elite sports program's again. During my lifetime, I have never seen Army, Navy, or Air Force, truly challenge for the mythical national championship. During my parents childhood, they did, year in and year out.
In the last thirty years or so, it has been rare for the service academies to attract the top athletes. The academies were not able to compete for the services of some of these kids, because most did not want to have to honor their service requirements before playing professional ball. This decision will allow them to do both. This in my mind has been long over due.
This decision will have great effects, not only for the service academy sports programs, but the nation's military as a whole. Imagine, you are thinking about the military and your recruiter is the starting running back for your favorite NFL team. That's a major coup for the military in an era of low enlistment numbers.
In this era in college sports, where recruiting means everything, imagine too, if there is a top athlete who has the academics to make it, at an academy. Hypothetically, the local military recruiter could be that same professional athlete whom I mentioned earlier. That is a major pull for the kids. The service academies, may be able to level the playing field a bit.
Will the academies be able to compete year in and year out? That is the major question. I'm not sure, but at least they are giving themselves the tools to make it possible. That's what the service academies are truly about, making us believe that we can truly do the impossible...