This is not the headline Army was hoping to be making at the midpoint of the season. A series of recruiting scandals over the past ten years have emerged that, while are not considered 'serious' by the NCAA, are in serious violation of West Point's Code of Conduct. Head Coach Jeff Monken has come out to admit this was going on, has stated he has ended the program, and has disciplined the players and coaches responsible. But is that enough?
Stories similar to this have surfaced at Oklahoma State and Miami (FL), and taking recruits to parties have been reported at schools at all levels for a variety of men's and women's sports. The real issue here is the obvious violation of the West Point Code of Conduct. Cadets are in school to become officers in the world's top fighting force and are therefore held to a higher standard than civilians are.
On the outside, this just seems like college kids being college kids. But it is far more than that. West Point has the 10th lowest acceptance rate in the country at 9%. The school brags about the number of valedictorians, class presidents, team captains, and All-Americans each class consists of. This is not an average school with average students who are allowed to play the 'Oh I was just a dumb college kid'. These students are some of the brightest in the country and are coming to school with one purpose: to lead soldiers into battle.
When the reports first surfaced, the allegations had said to have stretched back over 10 years. However, former Army coach Bobby Ross has come out to say that these trips, at least under his tenure from 2004-06, occurred with the recruit's families and under direct coaching supervision.
On the brighter side, the reports coming out of the school are nothing illegal in terms of assault, whether aggravated or sexual. While underage drinking is a concern, I'm sure the NCAA can look at every school in all 4 Divisions and find that happening in most sports.
Monken has mentioned that the players involved have been disciplined internally, which for most schools means some extra running after practice. However, discipline in the military, especially at West Point, is much more than gassers and suicides. The cadets involved, including starting quarterback Angel Santiago, would have likely been disciplined with extra chores, more drilling, and have the incident on their permanent record, which impacts their ability to obtain promotions.
After the dust settles from this season, Monken will need to take a deeper look into how his program is run. The Service Academies are the last stronghold for the true definition of amateurism and the ideal of the student athlete being just that: a student first, then an athlete. Any tarnish like this must be dealt with immediately and appropriately if the Academies want to uphold the integrity that many have fought and died for. Being an officer in the United State Military is one of the highest honors a young person can hold, and let's hope this incident can be put to rest once and for all before that prestige loses any meaning.