In his penultimate display of gross incompetence for the 2013 season, Rich Ellerson led the Army team to a stunning almost-comeback against Hawai’i, and in so doing granted a winless program its first victory. For the second time this year.

Enough already. Enough. Stop the insanity.

Every year at West Point, the same scene unfolds. New cadets stand side by side, in the wilting heat or dripping rain, fists clenched, veins bulging, voices strained, belting out the most beloved of West Point’s hallowed MacArthurian quotes: “There is no substitute for victory!”

That ethos is beaten into every cadet (whether they like it or not). It is upheld as the first and last word on the aim and purpose of all the academy’s efforts. It is lauded as the defining goal of combat. It is the immutable truth for which graduates and soldiers have sacrificed life and limb for over 200 years.

That ethos has to mean something. Every day. That includes Army football.

Like clockwork, the apologists come out. They’ll piss and moan that college football is different now. Service academies can’t compete in this day and age. They’ll say West Point should throw in the towel. Drop to Division I-AA. Or Division II. Or nix the program altogether.

STOP. Enough with the excuses. Save them for your political careers. College football is different now? Grab some semaphore flags and send Navy the message. They’ve been too busy averaging EIGHT WINS A SEASON OVER THE LAST DECADE to notice. How’s Navy doing this year? You guessed it, sports fans! They’re two weeks away from their 8th win. Coincidentally, that will also be their 12th victory in a row over Army–a fact which should make this sad attempt to pad Nike’s bottom line all the more effective at coaxing bilious vomit from Army fans’ stomachs.


Like the last 11 years of Army-Navy, it’s a one-way conversation.

In the last decade, Navy beat Notre Dame, took Ohio State to the 4th quarter, and posted more wins in a season than Army does in three. Next year, they’ll join the AAC (the remains of the Big East). They’ll win there, too. Air Force has posted two 9-win seasons as Mountain West members. Army handpicks their schedule and gets dragged around by their nostrils for four quarters by Stony Brook. STONY. BROOK.

It’s not “the war.” Toss that excuse atop the heap o’ bullshit feel-good reasons that Army’s losing ways have gone unmended. As I’ve said before, half of Navy’s team joins the Marine Corps. The “war” as it relates to football is nothing more than one more way for Army fans to sleep at night in the face of gross football incompetence, and to avoid the discomfort inherent in demanding better.

It’s not the talent. The only difference between Army and Navy is that the latter know how they look in pretty white shoes. Swap the jerseys and you coudn’t tell them apart, unless Navy’s boys kept their fancy footwear.

It’s the culture. An attitude of winning starts at the top. Army has a culture of acceptance and excuses where losing seasons are concerned.

Stop hiring graybeards. Paul Johnson was 44 when he started at Navy. Ken Niamatalolo was 43. Troy Calhoun was 40. Rich Ellerson was 56 when Army hired him. Bobby Ross was 68. If a guy remembers where he was when Kennedy was shot, he should be thinking about assisted living facilities, not practice facilities.

Stop accepting “almost.” A good effort against Temple isn’t worth a damn thing. If pats on the back won games, Army would be damming the Hudson with crystal footballs. Last I checked, the PCBs and sludge still flow unabated from Albany to the Verrazano Narrows.

Stop being cheapskates. Rich Ellerson will make $401,000 this year. That’s 103rd out of 119 reported FBS salries. Navy’s coach averages $1.6 million. For those of you who abhor higher math, that’s FOUR TIMES THE AMOUNT Ellerson gets paid. Troy Calhoun makes almost a million dollars. If you care about something, you invest in it. There’s a reason you don’t go to a dentist who charges $5 and works out of an old Wonder Bread truck. If you care, you put your money where your mouth is.

Fire Rich Ellerson. Fire him yesterday. Fire him so hard his dog collects unemployment. He’s a hack. In 17 years of coaching, he has never once posted even a 10-win season. Not in Division II. Not in the FCS. Certainly not now. Other than a willingness to accept a really awful contract, what did anyone see in this guy?

He’s wasting the efforts of young, eager Americans who are so willing to play their hearts out on a big stage that they’ll endure the copious, creative, and unending miseries of cadet life. They could be neck-deep in coeds and kegs at some FCS school, but they’re not. They’re smart. They’re capable. They’re relentless workers. They’re West Pointers. Ellerson is turning West Point’s Shinola into shit, year after year, unabated.

Invest in winning. Pay a real salary. Service Academies are a coaching nightmare, and West Point is a nightmare that would make a man wet the bed. It’s cold. It’s gray. It’s a brutal lifestyle for players and staff. Why the hell would they ask someone to do it for peanuts? Hire a young, hungry coach. I’d bet my handsome smile that there’s a Niamatalolo understudy or two who’s thinking he’d like to take the Army team and kick his boss’s ass once or twice. Offer him some real money (like you recognize the challenge and expect great returns), and maybe Army-Navy won’t make Scrooges out of every heart in gray, year upon year upon year.

Football is harder now. It’s faster and bigger and smarter. So what? There’s a difference between hard and impossible. Don’t tell me Air Force is better at doing hard stuff than anybody. West Point loves harder. Two hundred years of tradition is proof of that. Patton may not have known how to find the library, but he got one thing right: America loves a winner and will not tolerate a loser.

West Point says there is no substitute for victory. Show the world you mean it.



About The Author

Rob Paulsen. Old Grad staying young, staying hip to the fresh jive. Hating Navy around the clock. O-H. I-O.