Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The compromises you make ....

I'm going to leave personal commentary out of this till the end and for now I will just ask some questions.

- What is the purpose of the US Naval Academy?
- Where is the right balance between the positive aspects of sports, and its use for institutional advancement?
- In a zero-sum game that is admissions, where do you make compromises?
- If you are an institution bound by its mission - how much do you stretch that mission, how much do you compromise that mission, and for what reasons?
- As a Navy at war, how do you focus your resources to enhance the development of combat leaders? Are you fulfilling that role?
- How many good, smart young men and woman have lost a slot at Annapolis in the crunch - who got that final slot and why?
- How many outstanding Sailors with combat experience have applied to Annapolis and couldn't even get a spot at NAPS - and who took their place and why?
Also a note of self reflection for those who have served as junior line officers after USNA/NROTC:
- How many took too many hours a semester because they had to "graduate on time?"
- Remember what it was like as an unqualified Ensign?
- How much extra time did you have on your hands your first couple of years?

With that lead in, a summary from a report from one of my spies.

Some of the numbers may be a bit off - but review
this and then come back to ponder.

Shun White was supposed to graduate in 2008. He did not. He also did not graduate in 2009, because he was practicing with the Patriots or some something or another. He seems to have graduated sometime during the 2009-2010 academic year - we think, and now is on the Res/Mil roster for the Patriots.

Let's do the math. If the cost of one mid is $228,000 for FOUR years, then the cost for White is ~$313,500 for his whopping 5.5 years.

Don't blame the present Administration. My Annapolis spies report that the new administration is cracking down, and much of the daily regimen has become "back to basics." PLAN SALAMANDER for USNA seems to be taking hold in spots - Mr. Lombardi would approve. "Standards" are becoming a greater part of the USNA vocabulary than in the past.

This is good - but this is a trans-administration problem that odds have it would be allowed to continue. It would be a great marker for the new administration to stop this, but that is a tough call.

As for Shun ... well ... as we are a Navy at war, I hope the USS STOUT (DDG-55) is getting as much out of him as the rest of her junior officers. I hope he is standing as many watches and is on the curve to an average time to qualify. I hope his Sailors are getting as much of his time as they need.

If so, he is a better time manager than I ever was. ENS and LTJG Salamander was a busy feller, and never really had much time for anything but getting qualified and figuring out how not to get himself or his shipmates killed - but that was me.

I guess if you set things up with football trumping all other things, we can't fault Shun or the other players in the Res/Mil program.

I don't know - in a way we should enjoy it - we paid for it.


Curtis said...

I worked for some number of them.  I'd rather have the fucking Cobra come down from MINEGRU ONE as acting CO than some of the USNA football crowd of LCDR screened COs.  It rather looks like we spared some navy the experience of this guys naval leadership.

Combat Wombat said...

Nothing new. This was going on in the 80's with Napoleon McCallum. I remember that he was ASUPPO on a big deck amphib in the yards for a major overhaul at Long Beach so he could play for the Rams(?)...Everyone jumped over themselves when he made the "largest single donation to Navy Relief" or somesuch; this happened to be the $10K or so check he got for warming the bench for a game...He stood some duty, but on a not to interfere with his practices basis.

Wish the Nav had let me set my own schedule......

The Usual Suspect said...

This is one of those institutional problems that needs to be solved ASAP.  I do not see how anyone can argue that this type of situation supports the mission of the USNA.  I recall a post here  a while back about rolling back to Div II and focusing on the Mission.  I think that is a fine alternative; USNA is supposed to be turning out fleet officers and future admirals.  The disparate treatment of these individuals is bad for morale and sends the wrong message.  Does it support the concept of ship, shipmate, self?  It doesn't.  If you can't answer that in the affirmative, it should not stand.

Aubrey said...

I get torn when sports come up - the Academies have gone way too far over the line in catering to their D1 Football programs, and have hurt their ability to serve their mission in the process.

On the other hand, the values that you can learn in playing competitive sports are immense, and can (and often do) have a lifelong impact. Patton was a football player, Bradley a baseball man, Nimitz rowed crew...the list goes on. I also freely admit that I am heavily biased in this area - I played minor-pro hockey and still coach high level youth players (Jr High kids, so I get to skip most of the nastiness of high school sports).  That background as both an athlete and a team player have helped me in some tough situations, and taught some lessons I would not otherwise have learned.

I think the academies absolutely HAVE to keep organized, competitive sports - there is far too much to be gained from them.  However the key here is balance - and all of the academies, not just USNA, need to re-discover their balance in this area.  I agree with Usual, drop them down to D2 where the commitment and the zaniness are considerably less.  The kids will still learn the lessons without the special treatment and TV coverage that a D1 program gets...

Matt Hawks said...

I have no direct knowledge of the financials, but perhaps the elephant in the room is large revenue USNA receives from DIV I participation--and recently bowl games. I too would favor a drop to DIV II, in conjunction with a call to alumni/friends of the academy to supplement this lost income.  I bet supporters of the academy, if given clear reasoning on why the change was being made, would rise to the occasion and more than compensate for any lost revenue.  With the well-demonstrated fan base of Navy, I am willing to bet that some DIV I schools would be more than willing to have Navy on their schedule every few years.  In any case, the benefit of mission alignment outweighs the bogeyman of lost prestige.  Not to mention the inherent incompatibility of typical DIV I offensive linemen with a military uniform...

LT B said...

I think you would lose that bet. 

Anonymous said...

I think everyone, including me, understands the value of sports in refining leadership traits - heck, I was a jock. The thing is what is being sold and traded for D1 football. University of Chicago, Brown, Yale, etc also play football. You can have high standards in a small institution and have athletics-you just can't with D1 football.

Anonymous said...

What happened with Shun White is standard practice at USNA.  Just look at the list of December grads for the last few years and see how many football players graduated late so that they could get in that one last season of eligibility.  It's blatant theft of taxpayer funds, as far as I'm concerned.  But because it's in the DoD budget, no one asks any questions. 

What I also find highly objectionable is the practice of keeping recent graduates at USNA to work temp jobs while they await their follow-on orders.  Guess where the athletes tend to end up working after they graduate?  That's right, the Athletic Department.  We are paying officers to coach football rather than having them do jobs that require a Navy or Marine officer.  Granted, many of these are Navy officers awaiting BUD/S or flight school, or Marine officers awaiting TBS, but you can't tell me that with all the commands taking IAs out of hide, some command out in the fleet doesn't have a need for a general purpose O-1.  Need another football coach?  Hire a civilian, if you can justify the expense.  But don't hold officers at USNA while they're waiting for fleet training when they could be getting some actual OJT out in the fleet.

Anonymous said...


This talk about Shun White sounds like a lot of ruffled feathers in a hen house’ get over it, the Navy should have a winning team.

SoCal 91 said...

I wonder what Roger Starbauch thinks about all this embarrasing mess ?

Wasn't he USNA class of 1965 ?    Things have changed since then.

UltimaRatioRegis said...

"<span><span> the Navy should have a winning team"</span></span>

Yeah, they should.  Except I was hoping ot would be a winning team in combat on the world's ocans and littorals.  Which seems unlikely.  Because of the compromises we make.

UltimaRatioRegis said...

<span>"<span><span> the Navy should have a winning team"</span></span>  
Yeah, they should.  Except I was hoping it would be a winning team in combat on the world's oceans and littorals.  Which seems unlikely.  Because of the compromises we make.</span>

cdrsalamander said...

<span>Quod Erat Demonstrandum.  Perfect example of the problem we have.</span>

Guest - what a strange little world you live in, I must visit there some tie.  "Should." Interesting word, why "should?"  And why does it have to be D1?

Hmmm, wait - don't I know you.  Sure I do!  I thought I recognized you!

cdrsalamander said...

Oops, that was me.

prschoef said...

I was not quite a "weak-squad" type athlete, but pretty poor at USNA, but my observation has been that, among my contemporaries (class of 54), athletes were better at leadership and definitely better pilots. That said, I don't think that at that time any slack was cut for playing in the pro's

As to the second point, the alumni picking up the financial difference attendant on going to DII, I doubt it would happen. You have perhaps not been privy to the disengagement feltby MANY among the alumni caused by chicanery in the top echelon of the US Naval Academy Alumni Association in recent years, and the same trends criticized here on the Salamander front porch, namely excessive emphasis on diversity, and political correctnes manifested in women in subs, women in combat (or any deployed) ships and the probable repeal of the law on homosexuality.

JAV said...

West Point has done much the same-witness Caleb Campbell and the Lions. Lt Campbell was released to reserve duty after less than 2 years active duty. His service included attending Air Defense Artillery School, followed by a coaching position at West Point.

Dave said...

Lt Brendan Looney and Lt jg Andrew Dow.  Navy Seals. Seal Team leaders in Afghanistan.  Looney was killed and Dow seriously injured when their helo went down during a team turnover.

Both were "Fleming set asides" because they were recruited for athletics and went to NAPS before they came to the Academy.  They weren't recruited for their brains, although they were smart enough, they were recruited because they were tough and had a warrior mentality.

Do you really think the Captain of the Chess team and the Math club  with the high class rank and super SATs would have been on the tip of the spear?  Likely not.

We need people like these two.  No one should be ashamed that they went to NAPS and came to the Academy.  How do you argue against thier contribution?

Jim said...

Was watching the college football wrap up show on ESPN the weekend Navy played and defeated Notre Dame. Lou Holtz is an analyst on the show.
He commented that Navy is emphasizing football at the risk of our national security. Granted, this may be sour grapes on his part as he once
coached ND. There was a matter of factness in the tone of his voice, as if he believed this to be a real problem. Regarding N. McCallum, he served
onboard Peleliu, and played for the Raiders, as the Raiders were "homeported" in LA during that time.

C-dore 14 said...

Dave, I agree with you that no one should be ashamed that they went to NAPS and that many excellent leaders have attended it.  I would caution you, however, about generalizations in the other direction.  In his excellent history of U.S. submarine operations in WW II, <span>Silent Victory</span>, Clair Blair spends some time discussing the "skipper problem" early in the war and the efforts taken by the Navy to identify what kind of men made the best COs.  There was no consensus beyond the conclusion that success in command resulted from a "...deep inner motivation..." that was difficult to quantify or assess.  Thus you had the non-athletic, Eugene McKinney, achieving combat success like the All-American, Slade Cutter.

And, although I don't know the stats, I would wager that you have plenty of high class rank/super SAT guys out at the tip of the spear too.