ASO revisited

Yes, Army’s alternative service option, which allowed West Point cadets with special talents to pursue professional sports, was a topic of conversation at a Feb. 11 Board of Visitors meeting in Washington, D.C.

Army superintendent Lt. Gen. Franklin Hagenbeck and athletic director Kevin Anderson address a question on the policy’s status.

Hagenbeck: “In ’05, we wrote a particular standard in line with OSD (Office
of the Secretary of Defense). We moved out and had some youngsters go to the
professional ranks other than football. Last year, Caleb Campbell was drafted
by the Detroit Lions. The spotlight was on him. Another service academy was
very outspoken and their view was we had an unfair competitive advantage and
had that policy turned around in a blink of an eye…We are all under the same policy and how you look at it and
implement it is the question.”

“Right now, the program is suspended. We’ve approached both the Naval Academy
and the Air Force and asked them to get together with us collectively, move
forward and see if we can reengage in this process. From what I understand, the
Air Force is working under something different because they are letting their
cadets go early so they have an advantage in doing that. We’re moving forward
to see if we can do something. But right now, it doesn’t look bright for us in
that aspect.”

Hagenbeck added on Air Force: “It’s not just athletes. It’s
scholars and others. The Air Force is in the midst of downsizing 40,000 so they
do have the authorities to release some of their newly commissioned lieutenants
in their first or second year. If they choose to do that with an athlete, that
athlete has the option to stay in the reserves or go onto different programs.
The letter of the law is followed but it is different for us and Navy.

When we presented this, we are not going to a football factory. Caleb was an
aberration. Every once in a while, a young man comes along with that. But what
it did for the Armed Services and the recognition from that day at the draft
and how those four announcers saluted him and 2,500 people from the audience
standing up, yelling “USA”. You can’t buy that positive publicity.

Army football coach Rich Ellerson chimed in, “I have said and will say to a young recruit, if the end-all,
be-all is to play in the NFL , this is not where you want to go.”

Hagenbeck: They (cadets) could buy out. It was $280,000 and spend
their remaining time in the reserves subject to recall. If you didn’t show
progress in the pro ranks, Army could recall you back. That was all laid out.
OSD came back literally at the 11th hour, actually less than 48
hours when Caleb reported to Detroit
to say that definition of active duty for the first two years was not
acceptable. Of course, we never got anything in writing. Just got a phone call
and an e-mail to support that. That’s the sort of dialogue the three ADs (athletic directors) are
going to have, where should that authority reside? At the service or DOD level.”

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