November 3, 2010
The Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy is a 2 1/2-foot, 170-pound marvel with immense powers. It delivers happiness – and torment – to players, cadets, coaches and alums.
For years when Wes Dodd entered Clune Arena for basketball games, he walked past this powerful trophy. It rested near the entrance, where it announced all was right in the world of service-academy football.
At least that’s how Dodd, a 1974 Air Force Academy graduate, saw it.
Since 2003, all has been wrong in service-academy football for Dodd and thousands of others who watched with dismay as the trophy took up residence at Navy.
Dodd believes it’s time for the trophy to return home. The Falcons, who defeated Navy on Oct. 2, travel to Army on Saturday with a chance to transport the trophy to the Air Force campus.
When Air Force displayed the trophy at Clune, Dodd always took time to admire its detail. He made sure to explain the importance of the trophy to his children. The Dodds enjoyed dozens of chances to gaze at the trophy.
“It was there a lot,” said Dodd.
It sure was. The trophy resided at Air Force for 17 years from 1982 to 2002.
“I’m kind of fanatical about it,” Dodd said. “Whenever I think about it coming back to the academy, about it coming home, I think about how much I want to see it.”
He’s not alone.
I talked with Reggie Rembert, Andre Morris Jr. and Kyle Halderman, all in the latter days of their Air Force careers. They have never seen the trophy.
Think about that. These three seniors have never even glimpsed the most important trophy in their football lives.
“We want to see that trophy,” Morris said. “The whole team wants to see it.”
The battle for the trophy fails to gain extensive national attention, but this relative secrecy only adds to the intensity for the small circle of service academies.
“This is our Super Bowl,” Morris said.
For the Falcons, the reclaiming of the trophy is the only means to rescue a season that started slipping away with a loss at San Diego. If the Falcons lose at Army, a season once filled with promise will go down in Air Force football history as a failure. The trophy is this team’s only chance at redemption.
Halderman, a running back/receiver, chooses to emphasize the positives. He’s thinking about a trip to Washington, D.C., where he and teammates would meet the president and tour the nation’s capital as emperors of service academy football.
These thoughts inspire him, even though he’s quick to say the Falcons are not nonchalant about a victory. He made sure to mention Army will deliver a brutal challenge to Air Force’s hopes.
His caution makes sense. A revived Army squad is hungry, too. The trophy hasn’t been seen at West Point since 1996.
Halderman declines to think about the horrors of defeat. Instead, he savors his first, and last, opportunity to return the trophy to the Air Force campus.
“We actually have a chance, and it’s in our grasp if we choose to take it,” Halderman said.
Dodd, and so many others, are ready for the trophy’s return to the destination they consider its true home.