Perhaps Army fans would show a bit more patience with Anderson if it wasn’t for the success another service academy has shown under very similar conditions.
On December 15, 2006, Fisher DeBerry retired as Air Force’s head football coach. In DeBerry’s final three seasons with the Falcons, the team went a combined 13-21. Air Force chose to replace him with Troy Calhoun, an Air Force Academy graduate and at the time the offensive coordinator with the NFL’s Houston Texans. So far, things have worked out quite nicely, as Calhoun has the Falcons sitting pretty at 9-3 and on the verge of accepting a bowl bid.
Six weeks after Air Force’s coach resigned, Army’s head coach Bobby Ross decided to retire after producing a similar record (9-25) as DeBerry over the same three years. Army decided to hire Stan Brock, who had served for three years as offensive line coach on Ross’s staff. However, unlike the success story being played out in Colorado Springs, West Point is 3-8 going into their annual clash with Navy.
And it should come as no surprise that Army fans are livid.
As if having to deal with the enormous success of Navy’s football team over the past five seasons wasn’t enough to enrage the Army faithful, now they have the Air Force program to look to as well and wonder, “Why can’t we do that?”
According to Anderson, who was hired in December, 2004, his vision to overhaul the program includes more than just comparing it to the Falcons.
“I don’t think it’s that simple. Air Force is one example but we also have to look at the Naval Academy and the success [they] have had there. I think another good example is Wake Forest. They had suffered significantly for a long time with their football program. Coach [Jim] Grobe came into power and look at how he changed that around,” said Anderson.
One thing that does seem simple though to fans is that Air Force, Navy, and even Wake Forest all currently do something Army doesn’t do – and that’s run some form of spread or option offense.
The last time the Black Knights ran an option offense was in 1999 under Bob Sutton. After that season, Army fired Sutton and brought in Todd Berry, who was incredibly successful running a pro-style offense at Division I-AA. Berry brought his system to West Point and the losses piled up. In 2003, many Army fans hoped for a return to the option-oriented offense when Ross was named coach, but much to their dismay, he and his son, Kevin, who served as the offensive coordinator, chose to stick with a pro-style scheme.
After being fired by Brock, the younger Ross admitted in an interview with GoMids.com that Army looked into running the option.
“We studied the heck out of it, and we ran it to a degree. We just didn’t want to completely major in it. We concluded that we would want to keep it as a package in our offense,” said Ross. “Our quarterbacks were a little bit different athletes; it was a little bit difficult making yards when they had the ball.”
“We practiced it a great deal; kept it in the game plan and called it a couple of times. It never made it into our complete system. We weren’t closed minded about anything. Yeah, there were a lot of people for it, but we wanted to run a balanced attack (run and pass),” concluded Ross.
And while the Ross regime concluded the option wasn’t the remedy for Army’s offensive woes, fans were once again hopeful that Army’s latest gridiron hire would finally see the light.
And then, in his initial press conference as head coach, Stan Brock said the following.
“There will be some new and innovative things, but we’re not going away from the base offenses and defenses that we’ve been running…I’m very comfortable with it.”
Less than a month after taking the job, Brock hired Tim Walsh away from Portland State to be his offensive coordinator. Upon taking the job, Walsh confirmed his offensive plans, saying, “We’ve been very successful running multiple pro-style offenses at Portland State and we’re hoping to be able to do the same thing at Army.”
So after six years and a record of 17-74, Army was going to continue to run a pro-style offense under Brock.
The results of that decision, leading up to the Tulsa game, have been less than spectacular. The team had only scored 14 offensive touchdowns in its first ten games, and the unit was ranked 117 out of 119 teams in total offense.
But during the ESPN telecast of Army’s tenth game, a 41-6 loss to Rutgers, one of the television commentators mentioned that the Black Knights coaching staff would be conducting a “retreat” in the off-season to reevaluate the offensive scheme.
A few days later during his weekly press conference and later reported by the Times Herald- Record, Brock confirmed the plan to review the offense in the off-season, and that the plan would likely include introducing some form of the option.
“There are a lot of things with the option that we like,” said Brock. “What we are trying to do is take the knowledge that we have here and go out and get some other knowledge. It will be a part [of the offense]. But you have to recruit people to do it.”
And while some West Point fans were immediately excited about the plan, others took to internet message boards to decry this season for Brock as one of ‘on-the-job training.’ However, according to Anderson, looking into the option after the first-year was always the plan.
“We had thirty days, putting together a coaching staff, going into spring ball. Instead of having everybody – all the coaches and all the players learn a new system we decided to have Coach Walsh run the system that was already in place,” said Anderson.
“In football you recruit to your system so the people who we have recruited to play here this year were recruited to play in Coach Ross’ system. It would have been very difficult with the athletes that we have to convert them to – for an example – to be option players. And so Stan made a decision it was easier – [to] see what we could do to utilize it this year, and then have the off-season to look and establish a system that will best benefit Army football,” continued Anderson.
It turns out talking about running the option comes very naturally to Anderson, and he welcomed the comparison to Navy, Air Force and Wake Forest.
“If we look at them and saw those programs that are running some kind of variation of option offenses that can isolate people one on one with folks, [it] gives you a chance that you’re not getting into situations where you’re always in third and eight or third and nine – you know we could gain four or five yards so you’re looking at third and short rather than 3rd and long,” said Anderson.
It sounds like Anderson is serious about this option idea – and is seriously getting involved with the intricacies of the football team. A fact he did not shy away from.
“Any athletic director that’s worth [something] or is concerned about doing a good job is going to look at what you need to do to get the job done,” said Anderson.
He then confirmed he’s not the only administrator getting his hands dirty when it comes to fixing the football program.
“I can tell you that at the end of the year, the Superintendent, the head football coach and myself will sit down and we’re gonna talk and scrutinize this past season and then the staff is gonna go off and we’re going to devise – offensively and defensively - schemes that will best suit our talent level and put us in the best position to win,” said Anderson.
When asked if he would be part of the retreat that ESPN mentioned and Brock confirmed, Anderson responded with a quick and resounding.
But what does Stan Brock think about Anderson’s hands-on approach? And what about that letter Anderson wrote to the Georgia Tech Athletic Director…what did he think when he saw it in the press? Also, what gives with their being no upcoming schedules on the Army web site? Doesn’t the AD know how much fans love seeing them? In part two of this interview, I asked those questions and even one that made the Army AD stop in his tracks and say, “That’s a good question.” If you want to read part two, be sure to subscribe to be a premium member of Scout.com today because the second-half of the interview (appearing tomorrow) will be for members only.
Do have a question or comment for David? Send him an email.