Save this content for laterSave this content on your device for later, even while offline Sign in with FacebookSign in with your Facebook account Close

Calhoun advocates for pro options for academy athletes

By: JAKE SCHALLER
May 22, 2009
0
photo - 
	 Photo by KEVIN KRECK, THE GAZETTE
Photo by KEVIN KRECK, THE GAZETTE  

Air Force senior tight end Travis Dekker was signed by the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent and last week participated in the team's rookie orientation camp.

No matter how much Dekker impresses the Packers, however, he won't be able to play for them immediately. A Department of Defense rule stipulates service academy graduates who wish to play pro sports must first serve at least two years of a five-year active duty service commitment.

Air Force coach Troy Calhoun thinks that rule should be altered. Not just because it would offer Dekker a pro opportunity immediately, or because it might help his program - "the ultimate drive can't be to make your football team better," he said.

Instead, Calhoun argues that by leaving slightly ajar the door to an immediate pro opportunity (or other job with public relations benefit to an academy) academies would be more attractive to potential recruits. Thus the pool of applicants would become even stronger.

"Are we losing literally hundreds upon hundreds of outstanding officer candidates that will not consider going to any of the service academies because they have no chance to pursue a possibility?" Calhoun said. "I think right now we're deterring a good chunk of young men and young women just because of a door that's immediately shut."

NFL teams often are scared off by the two-year commitment and will not draft service academy grads.

This became a lightning rod issue a year ago when Army's Caleb Campbell was selected by the Detroit Lions in the NFL draft. Campbell was expecting to join the team because of Army's "Alternative Service Option" program that allowed West Point grads to play pro sports while working as part-time recruiters.

The day before Campbell was to report to training camp, however, Army announced it would follow the Department of Defense policy, putting Campbell's NFL hopes on hold.

Calhoun believes all graduates should serve on active duty. But he thinks a way can be found so those who can play professionally - or do something else that could benefit an academy from a public relations standpoint - could postpone their service or do it over an extended time period (initially during the offseason, then full time when a pro career is finished).

"It's going to be very, very rare that it occurs," Calhoun said. "You'd lose one out of 800 or one out of 1,000 - and I don't think you'd lose them, just the way you structure the terms of service has to be a little different.

"The drive at a service academy has got to be how do we improve even more so the officers that we churn out of here. And if we look at it from that standpoint, I think we will. ...

"Now instead of having one Travis Dekker, are there two more? Instead of one Chad Hennings, are there one or two more?

"All of a sudden instead of one David Robinson, are there even more?"

Comment Policy
Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Subscribe to the Colorado Springs Gazette

It appears that you value local journalism. Thank you.

Subscribe today for unlimited digital access with 50% fewer ads for a faster browsing experience.

Already a Subscriber? LOGIN HERE

Subscribe to the Colorado Springs Gazette

It appears that you value local journalism. Thank you.

Subscribe today for unlimited digital access with 50% fewer ads for a faster browsing experience.

Subscribe to the Colorado Springs Gazette

Some news is free.
Exceptional journalism takes time, effort and your support.

Already a Subscriber? LOGIN HERE

articles remaining
×
Thank you for your interest in local journalism.
Gain unlimited access, 50% fewer ads and a faster browsing experience.