Guest post by John Hughes
As a physician, I am trained to have an analytical mind. As such, I constantly scan for statistically significant events. In the past 6 years, West Point’s Black Knights Football Team has had an incredible run. Amassing a 52-25 record, the team won 4 of 5 bowl games and earned the Commander-in-Chief Trophy 4 times.1
However, some other recent Army Football stats are not so laudable.
100% of recent nationally known cadet scandals since 2016 (2016 cocaine, 2020 cheating, 2022 Spring Break cocaine) involved at least one or more Army football players
2016 Cocaine dealing (1 of 5 cadets or 20% were football players)2
2020 Cheating Scandal (24 of 73 cadets or 32% were football players)3
2022 Spring Break (2 of 5 cadets or 40% were football players)4
With some variation, West Point’s football teams comprises only 3-4% of the Corps of Cadets.
Additionally, the NY Post’s article highlighted ongoing cocaine use among the Army football players since 2016. The frequency of recent misconduct and fact that Army football players are involved in every event and overly represented as a demographic is cause for concern. More troubling, the Superintendent’s recent letter trying to hide the recent cocaine debacle from public scrutiny begs the question of how many other scandals occurred but were just shielded from public knowledge.
To be clear, I am focusing on football since 2016 and am not condemning Army and academy football players throughout history. On the contrary, I had the honor of rooming with a football player at West Point and one of my closest professional associates is a former Army football player. Both continue to be honorable men who served the nation well in uniform and have impeccable character. Nor am I condemning all current Army football players.
One scandal would be one thing, but all 3 is a trend. Possible factors could include lowered admissions standards, coupled with ineffectiveness of the senior USMA leaders and Army football coach. Another confounder could be a strong desire to beat Air Force and Navy and win bowl games at all costs (i.e., at the expense of enforcement of regulations, laws, and the Honor Code). Whatever the cause, West Point’s Superintendent and football coach owe cadets, fans, and graduates an explanation into why football players are involved in so many scandals and a plan for how they will solve the issue. West Point was not founded in 1802 to win football games. It was founded with an infinitely greater purpose – to create Army officers to win wars and serve the nation.
It is easily recognizable that West Point has a difficult time recruiting players and fielding a winning team due to the inherent limitations of a military school. It is also clear that the lure of fame and money in pro sports is very different in 2022 than it was decades ago. That being said, I feel West Point of late relies on obedience, passiveness, and blind generosity from the Long Gray Line. I challenge grads to reconsider their actions in these 3 areas. Today, I received an email from legendary West Point running back, Heisman Trophy winner, Rhodes Scholar, and decorated combat veteran BG (retired) Pete Dawkins asking for donations to cadet programs including sports. BG (retired) Dawkins is the epitome of Army Football and its value to the Academy. However, the current military academy and football team appear to operate with different priorities.
While it pains me to do so, I don’t feel the desire to throw good money after bad and will not contribute until West Point takes public ownership of the problem, enacts a plan, and shows results. While I love to be the fan of a winning team and will always take pride in my Alma Mater, ethics, honor, and graduates that serve the nation morally and responsibly are far more important. Accordingly, I will gladly tolerate a losing football team if the academy and its graduates serve the nation in the right way. I challenge West Point grads to do the same introspection and examine if their donations match their personal code of ethics. If letters, emails, and questions from the Long Gray Line won’t enact meaningful change to cleanse this stain on the Long Gray Line’s legacy and return to its raison d’être, perhaps withholding alumni funds will.
1996 USMA Graduate (#1 in class)
Combat Veteran (4 tours in Iraq and Afghanistan)
The views expressed in the article belong to the author and not to any organization or corporation.
2Kennedy, Dana et al. Cocaine and Pain Pills: Inside Secret Drug Culture at West Point. NY Post, 19 March 2022.
3Jackson, Wilton. Report: Two Dozen Army Football Players Linked to West Point Academic Cheating Scandal. Sports Illustrated. 30 December 2020. 4Hill, Michael and Spencer, Terry. West Point Cadets Among 6 to Overdose on Fentanyl-laced Cocaine During Spring Break Trip, Officials Say. USA Today. 12 March 2022.
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