Army Unveils 1-AA Plans

by John Furgele

First off, it is not happening, but the headline is a pretty good tease, isn’t it?  Last Saturday, Army was beaten soundly by 1-AA power New Hampshire 28-10.  On paper, it looks like a bad loss because anytime a 1-AA team beats a 1-A team, it always looks bad.  But, New Hampshire is a 1-AA power, a team capable of playing for the 1-AA championship come mid-December. 

But, this is not your father’s—or grandfather’s—Army football team anymore.  The Black Knights, nee Cadets, are probably more like a Division II team than they are a 1-A or even 1-AA team.  New Hampshire, like most 1-AA teams, can have 63 scholarship players on its roster.  Everybody who plays at Army is on scholarship because every STUDENT at the U.S. Military Academy is on government scholarship.  After graduation, each cadet goes on active duty for five years, then reserve duty for three more, so there is a price to pay for going to the academy for free. 

Army simply cannot recruit against other 1-A schools.  If you’re a star linebacker and you’re being recruited by Rutgers and Army, where are you going to go?  Rutgers, of course.  Most of the players who go to Army aren’t being recruited by other 1-A schools.  They’re being recruited by Army, Hofstra, Dartmouth, Bucknell, Albany, Central Connecticut, and probably a host of Division II and III schools.  Most of these kids have a love of country, so they would rather go to Army, play a bit undersized rather than go to Bucknell, or even a Williams College, a division III school.  Obviously, these kids have a higher calling than college football.  College football is something these kids do while in college, just like joining student government is something ordinary students do.

All that said, Army cannot compete with the top 1-AA schools, let alone 1-A schools.  If Army played in the 12 team 1-AA Colonial Athletic Association, they would lose to just about every school in that conference.  Delaware would beat them, New Hamsphire did beat them.  They would also lose to Massachusetts and James Madison, and would have the hands full with Richmond, Hofstra, and Villanova, Maine and everybody else in the CAA.

But, Army, which can’t compete in a top 1-AA conference, is playing 1-A football.  A few years ago, they dropped out of Conference USA because they couldn’t compete against those schools.  Now, they’re playing as an independent where they can massage the schedule to their liking.  They opened up at home against Temple, for years one of the bottom feeders in 1-A football.  And, Temple beat them like a drum, 35-7.  Nobody massages a schedule better than Navy, which usually plays a 1-AA school and just about every bottom feeder 1-A team they can get their hands on.  In 2008, Navy plays Duke, SMU, Northern Illinois, Ball State, Temple, and of course, Army.

Army took on Temple, New Hampshire, and will also face Akron, Tulane, Rice, Louisiana Tech and Eastern Michigan.  They scheduled Buffalo, figuring that would be an easy win, but no more.  This year, they will travel to Buffalo and they will likely have their hands handed to them.  Even massaging is not easy to do as the Army is finding out.

The problem with Army football is selling tickets to 40,000 seat Michie Stadium.  There has always been a loyal following by Army fans, but if the home team is no longer competitive, why go?  Fans will come to games if they feel like the home team has a chance to win, and if Army played a 1-AA schedule, fans would feel that their Knights would have a chance to win.

What should Army do?  They should drop down to 1-AA and play either as a 1-AA independent, or better, join the Patriot League.  The Patriot League currently has seven football schools:  Bucknell, Colgate, Lehigh, Lafayette, Holy Cross, Fordham, and Georgetown.  At one time, every school besides Georgetown played Division I football.  All of these schools have high academics, low student bodies, perfect matches for what Army brings to the table.  And, with only seven schools, they would love to add an eighth member, and Army would be the perfect eighth member.

If Army played in the Patriot League, they could play seven league games and that would still leave four to five dates to schedule Navy, Air Force and two to three other nonconference games.  In addition to Air Force and Navy, they could play Massachusetts, Boston College, Rutgers and perhaps a New Hampshire or Hofstra.  A good balance and more importantly, a chance to be a competitive.  Also in play would be a potential 1-AA playoff appearance which goes to the Patriot League champion.  It makes perfect sense, but of course, it will NEVER happen.  There is too much pride in the Army athletic department to admit that they can’t compete with the big boys.  That would be like admitting that the real Army can’t beat Iraq, Iran or any other foreign antagonist.

They don’t fear wars, so why would they fear Akron?  Or Buffalo?  But, fans don’t want to come to Michie Stadium and see the Knights get creamed by the likes of the Temple Owls and New Hampshire Wildcats.  They will point to the success of their arch-enemy Navy, but Navy got a bit lucky when they found and hired Paul Johnson, who ran the triple option to success in Annapolis.  Now, that Johnson is gone, watch Navy drop like a stone in the future.

In sum, it’s too hard today in 1-A football for Army to succeed.  They admitted that when they left Conference USA.  Here’s hoping they will admit and leave 1-A for 1-AA.

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13 Responses to “Army Unveils 1-AA Plans”

  1. BrentinNH Says:

    I completely agree with you. I was at the game at Michie Stadium Saturday and saw NH field better athletes. NH was bigger, faster, and stronger.

    So true and so sad.

  2. johnny228 Says:

    It will be interesting to see which 1-AA schools Army will play in the future. They won’t drop further down 1-AA and play a Colgate, but they will likely have a tough time beating the likes of New Hampshire, Delaware or any CAA team for that matter.

  3. johnny228 Says:

    Looks like VMI is the 1-AA opponent for 2009. That should be a winnable one. The rest.

    2009 Army Football Schedule
    Sept. 5 at Eastern Michigan
    Sept. 12 DUKE
    Sept. 19 BALL STATE
    Sept. 26 at Iowa State
    Oct. 3 TULANE
    Oct. 10 VANDERBILT
    Oct. 17 at Temple
    Oct. 24 RUTGERS
    Nov. 7 at Air Force
    Nov. 14 VMI
    Nov. 21 at North Texas
    Dec. 5 vs. Navy (Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pa.)

  4. guest Says:

    get a good coaching staff and the kids have a chance

  5. LFN Says:

    I’ve been a proponent of both Army and Navy joining the Patriot League for quite some time. Having watched the UNH game I completely agree that UNH was a more talented team that beat the Cadets in every phase of the game.

    One interesting thought is that with the rule wins against schools with 63 “scholarships” (i.e. FCS teams) means that Army would have no problem remaining on Air Force’s schedule should they choose to go Patriot League/FCS, especially if the rumored move to scholarship football in the Patriot League is a reality. That would preserve the commander’s-in-chief trophy, and would functionally be no different than the way they recruit now.

    Unfortunately I believe as you do that the folks making the decisions would fear the “loss of face” from alumni so badly that it is extremely unlikely to happen. One argument I’ve heard against Patriot League membership is that Army football games are national recruiting opportunites – however, Harvard, Yale, and even Patriot League schools recruit students nationally too, and the PL has not made them lose “face.”

  6. David Says:

    Are Navy & AF going to move to FCS/I-AA?

    Since the obvious answer is “No,” then you know the answer to the question “Is Army going to move to FCS/I-AA?”

  7. johnny228 Says:

    LFN,

    Right now, the PL schools do not give scholarships per se, but like most private schools, they do “give grants” to qualified students, just like Division III schools such as Rochester and RPI do, but giving a full athletic scholarship does make a Lehigh or Bucknell more attractive. Correct me if I’m wrong, but PL basketball schools (because Holy Cross threatened to move) give basketball scholarships.

    I live in Albany, and the Northeast Conference was like the PL in the fact that they did not give football scholarships. But, they faced defections from some (Stony Brook left) if they didn’t get with the competitive modern times. As of now, NEC schools can have 30 scholarships and because if it, the NEC is more competitive. The number will likely rise and the starting in 2010, the NEC champ will get an automatic 1-AA playoff berth. Right now, if an NEC school wins 8 games, they will be considered for a berth.

    I was being a bit tongue-in-cheek with the column, but I firmly believe that Army belongs at the 1-AA level; in fact, the NCAA should make more schools drop to 1-AA. They let it get out of hand many years ago, but they seem to be trying to control it somewhat over the years.

    Because Air Force plays—and has been competitive—in the best non-BCS conference (Mountain West), to me, they are not a candidate for 1-AA. Navy should be, though—-last year, they were beaten by Delaware and would have their hands full if they played the top dogs of 1-AA.

    Ironically, Army and Navy are Patriot League members in every sport except football.

    No truth to the rumor that Syracuse will be joining the 1-AA ranks. We’ll see after the play the Northeastern Huskies.

  8. David Says:

    Johnny, you completely missed my point. As long as any one of Army, Navy, or Air Force remains in FBS/I-A, then all three of them will.

    Also, looking head-to-head in recent years, Navy has owned Air Force, so your contention that Navy is somehow closer to FCS/I-AA than Air Force is is laughable.

  9. Gene69 Says:

    As a grad it’s very painful to watch. Moving to the PL makes a lot of sense. 1A football is now semi-pro and Army not only has student athletes but ones who also have daily military responsibilities.

    It will most likely take this year’s 0-11 and next year’s 1-10 records to get the hard-headed alumni who are living in the past to cry uncle and begin to make the move.

  10. Tony Alva Says:

    Div IAA: Horrible idea that should never happen.

    The reason Army is in the tank is due to VERY poor decisions (joining thug conference USA) and even poorer hires since Sutton was disgracefully fired on the street outside of Veteran’s Stadium by one of the biggest idiot AD’s of all time Rich Greenspan. Greenspan hire fellow idiot Todd Berry and collectively destroyed the program. Greenspan was fired for screwing up Indiana’s storied basketball program this last year. Berry was fired along with Coker at Miami after that team degeneraged into chaos. There is a pattern here.

    The only break was Ross’s noble, yet failed attempt to do things right. He was too old, too tired, and knew only spread offense for the last 20 years. Great guy though.

    How many guys are going to attempt to force a West Coast offense upon the beloved Corps before SOMEBODY puts a stop to it?

    Get Charlie Taaffe in there NOW and put an end to this foolishness.

    BEAT NAVY!!!

  11. johnny228 Says:

    They left Conference USA years ago—can’t use that as an excuse anymore.

    Sutton—definitely derserved to stay.

    Berry—West Coast Offense does not work anymore. That said, the spread does not have to be run by everybody either. Too much of a good thing.

    Charlie Taafe: you want a guy who just got fired from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to coach at Army. No way.

    Good stuff, though

  12. johnny228 Says:

    Correction: The West Coast Offense does nto work in college—check out Syracuse for an example. Robinson, in his fourth year there, still can’t get the WCO up and clicking.

    Army, because they’re undersized should go back to the wishbone/triple option. Today, hardly anybody uses it, so it might give them a chance because as the cliche goes, “it’s tought to prepare for in a week.”

  13. johnny228 Says:

    “Also, looking head-to-head in recent years, Navy has owned Air Force, so your contention that Navy is somehow closer to FCS/I-AA than Air Force is is laughable.”

    Just because Navy does well against Air Force doesn’t mean they shoiuldn’t drop down to the ranks of 1-AA. Appalachian State beat Michigan in 2007. Does that mean Appalachian State should move UP to 1-A? Same for Delaware; they beat navy in 2007, but they’re staying put.

    If Navy played in the 1-AA CAA South, how many games would they win?

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