This is NOT About Football

Navy beat Pitt Saturday by a field-goal with one second on the clock.

This blog is not about football, and it is barely about Pitt, it is, I think, an interesting story about one of my Roommates at Annapolis.

My Roommate had all the political clout anyone ever wanted — his father was an All-American football player for Navy, a retired Admiral and was while we were at the Academy, the Athletic Director at Pitt.

(That is the tie-in.)

Not only was my roommate the son of an Admiral who was AD at Pitt, my roommate’s brother was also a noted Annapolis graduate who played for Navy.

Unfortunately, my roommate was really bright but lacked the physical coordination required at Annapolis. He couldn’t box, he couldn’t wrestle, he couldn’t swim the necessary distance in the required time, he couldn’t finish the required obstacle course…and by graduation time, it was obvious he was not going to be able to climb the required 20 foot rope, or swim the required mile…

(Climbing the rope was only half of it — you had to have strength to climb back down. One of my classmates ignored that warning, dropped 20 feet and broke a leg.)

I was assigned to tutor my uncoordinated roommate, but it was not going well.

Now, for the “Rest of the story” you need to know how failing an academic course was handled: there were several potential outcomes ranging from the bad news, getting a bus ticket home, through some better alternatives…

In the best case, you could be granted the ability to take another final exam, a MUCH tougher one in the failed subject.

At the middle level, you could be “Turned Back” which meant you went back an entire grade, to take it all over again — every course. (This led to the macabre joke among Midshipmen that Annapolis was a “Five year course, but some complete it in four!”

If you failed a course, you went before the “academic Committee” consisting of the Superintendent of the Academy (an Admiral), and the Department Heads of the dozen Departments (all Captains). It is an impressive array of brass!

That Board holds your future, and they waste no time reviewing your Academics, your physical and mental capabilities and your “Aptitude for the Service.” Afterward, they send you to the hall where there is a single chair –and you await their decision after they have a brief discussion.

As you wait, you will be alerted to the decision by a bell that was over your head: one ring, and you return to your room where someone will bring you a bus ticket home. Two bells and you return to the Board to be told if you are Turned Back or get a re-exam. The Board has been known to delay the time between the first bell (go home) and the second, more desired bell — just to torture you.

Now back to my roommate with his Admiral father, the All-American footballer, and the existing Athletic Director at the University of Pittsburgh a school we played every year in many sports. My roommate whose brother also graduated from the Academy.

My roommate failed a single course during our Second Class Year (Junior Year)

He got ONE BELL! No re-exam. No turn back. Just sent immediately home.

Surprising? Absolutely. So much for having influence.


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