Caslen unplugged

Extended interviews with West Point superintendents in a public forum are rare.

Monday’s press conference introducing new Army football coach Jeff Monken provided reporters with an opportunity to speak with Gen. Robert Caslen on the state of Army’s football program.

Caslen, who along with athletic director Boo Corrigan picked Monken to lead Army, didn’t hold back when talking about the improvements that need to be made.

“What Army football needed is we needed discipline because we were making too many mistakes,” Caslen said. “We were in the bottom-third of all Division I football teams in the country in turnover percentage. This is West Point. These cadets are disciplined. We were one of the most ill-disciplined teams in America. You can’t have that. You get the ball 10-12 times a game. To win you have to put 30 points on the board which means you better score more than half of the times you get the ball. If we are turning the ball over six to eight times a game, that’s more than half the times we have the ball. We are just eliminating our percentages and odds to win. We have to teach discipline. We have to coach discipline. We have to hold ourselves accountable. He (Monken) will bring discipline.”

“The second thing (Monken) is going to bring is mental and physical toughness. You know how you measure toughness? Look at the fourth quarter and see how many fourth quarters Army won this year. The answer is two. Go back and look at last year and look at how many fourth quarter Army won. The answer is two…What happened to the great Army, the fourth quarter is ours. What happened to that? You need mental toughness first so you will pay the price physically. That you can pound and beat and pound and beat and be in a fight and then the fourth quarter doesn’t flatten you out it becomes a great equalizer. So that no longer it is ‘They are bigger, stronger, faster.’ Now, they’ve been beaten so it becomes a great equalizer and when the fourth quarter becomes an equalizer then the team that plays as a team with the greatest will is the team that will win the fourth quarter and I bet if you win the fourth quarter more times than not (you win the game).”

“(Monken) brings inspiration. As he said, most times we are not going to be as fast or strong or big as a team we play. But if you take the way we play on average and put that performance on a bell-shaped curve if you can play to the upper level of your potential on that bell-shaped curve than you can go head to head on any given day with anyone in the country. The key is how do you get those kids to play inspired football to the upper level of their potential every play, every series, every game and that’s leadership. Leadership will inspire. Leadership mostly comes from the instition that sets the conditions. It comes from the coaches that inspires them and it also comes from the players themselves the seniors. if you go back over the last 20-25 years and look at all of the successful Army football programs, every single one of them had great senior leadership. That’s what makes the difference.”

When asked if one of his main tasks as superintendent is to fix the football program, Caslen said, “A lot of people asked that question. (They say), ‘You are putting too much emphasis on winning,’ and all of that. My response is first of all there’s other people before me like Douglas MacArthur who understood the importance of winning here. But, it goes way beyond West Point. It goes to our Army and its relationship with the American people. When the American people make the decision to put boots on the ground, they don’t expect us to go out there and do our best. They expect us to win. They expect us to be fighters that will go out tooth and nail to do whatever it takes honorably in order to win.  That’s what they expect.

“When the American people see the Army, they see the Army exemplified through West Point and the best way they see West Point is the Army-Navy game and what have they’ve seen from Army over the last 12 years. We’ve developed a habit of losing to the point where we have developed a culture of losing. That’s wrong. In my opinion, that’s wrong. That’s something as a superintendent I got to reverse. I don’t care if it’s football, or lacrosse or soccer. I don’t care if it’s academics. If you develop a culture of losing and become in the habit of losing, we, the United States Army, are in the wrong business. We’ve got to turn that around. Our Warrior Ethos says, ‘We never quit. We will pay the price in whatever is necessary, honorably to be successful. So winning is important. It’s important for a lot of reasons.”

Read more from Caslen in Kevin Gleason’s column and a story on a sideline sight at the Army-Navy game earlier this month, which set Caslen off.

For more on Army football, follow me on Twitter @salinterdonato


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    Sal Interdonato

    Award-winning writer Sal Interdonato has been on the Army football beat since 2007. He'll take you inside the huddle and into the lives of the Black Knights. Read Full
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