Army: A Program in Denial

Bobby Ross (AP/ Jim McKnight)

"In just two short years, Bobby Ross has quickly stamped his imprint upon the Army football team, taking a program that was winless the season prior to his arrival and injecting new vitality into the once-proud Black Knights grid squad. Ross, who built championship programs at both the collegiate and professional levels, has attacked his rebuilding project . . .

. . .at Army with the same vigor that he displayed at previous stops along the way. The Black Knights have quickly adopted his no-nonsense, workmanlike approach…"

Before you reach for that computer to send me your, "Whatcha talkin' about Willis?" emails regarding that statement. Please consider the source of the above quote. It was taken directly from the 2006 Army football media guide. My question is, how will the introductory paragraph to Bobby Ross's biography read in next season's media guide?

Here's a crack at the first sentence: "In just three years, Bobby Ross has managed to win more than twice as many games as his predecessor did in his first three years as head coach at Army."

That's some good spin from a program that is in complete denial because the reality is in his first three seasons, Bobby Ross's record with the Black Knights (assuming losses to Notre Dame and Navy) is 9-25, which doesn't look or sound a heck of a lot better than Todd Berry's record (5-29) was in his first three seasons.

However, Berry was kept onboard for another season, well for the first six games (all losses) of his fourth year. So one would think that a coach of Ross's stature would likely be welcomed back next season regardless of the outcome of the upcoming Notre Dame and Navy games. Unless of course Ross resigns before then…something that he has done before.

In 2000, moments after his Detroit Lions fell to 5-4 on the season at the hands of a 23-8 loss to the Miami Dolphins, who were 7-2 after the victory, Ross called the game, "one of the most embarrassing losses I have ever had." He also went on to say, "We showed right from the start of the game that we weren't ready to play, and ultimately, that is my responsibility. I won't back down from that. This loss is going to be very hard for me to digest. I'm going to have to go home and reflect on some things and talk them over with my wife." The next day, Ross resigned as head coach of the Detroit Lions.

So what exactly will Ross say this week after his 3-7 Black Knights were humiliated, 43-7 on national television by a mediocre Air Force squad?

I think he has two choices…and make no mistake since Berry got his fourth year; these decisions are for Ross, and Ross alone to make. I highly doubt any of the higher-ups at West Point will be involved in a coaching decision anytime soon. I mean, how can they? Did you read that media guide introduction?

Back to Ross's choices, first of all, he can resign. Why should he? Gosh, where do I start? 43-0 at halftime…leading the NCAA in turnovers…a safety on a kick-off return…embarrassing losses to Navy…blowout loss to Rice

Ross's other choice would be much more difficult and a lot more personal. He can stay on for another year but with a much different coaching staff. That would mean firing many of his assistants, including his son and offensive coordinator Kevin. I mean somebody has to take the blame for the debacle against Air Force alone.

Alas, it's always easy to point the finger at the head coach, but the much-documented problems at Army run much deeper. It's a shame that if anyone resigns, it will most likely be Ross. However, for the past two seasons, Ross has been the architect of this doomed project, which all begins with his decision to run a pro-style offense at a school that recruits military officers, not pro-style athletes. He did after all make the decision to bring in a gifted passer at a school that has no business trying to build a program, never mind just an offense, around him. I mean everyone knows Army would be more successful running the option, well, everyone outside of Bobby Ross and those who hired him.

So, when Bobby Ross leaves, whether it is this week or next year, the first big decision facing the next coach at West Point will be what to do with the aforementioned gifted passer, freshman quarterback Carson Williams. Is he capable of running the option? Or better yet, will he want to?

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