2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Army Has the Right Guy

Published: November 4, 2009, 4:37 pm, by admin

Had a chance today to speak with first-year Army coach Rich Ellerson for a story that will appear in Saturday’s special preview section.

Enjoyed talking to Ellerson, who really seems like a good fit for West Point.

He’s a triple-option guru (he worked with Paul Johnson at Hawaii and then ran the offense during a super-successful stint at Cal-Poly), and he’s got Army focused on that scheme.

He said he’s talked to former Army coach Jim Young, who had a 51-39-1 record from 1983 through 1990, and he’s studied the successes of Fisher DeBerry at Air Force and Paul Johnson at Navy.

And he’s an old-school guy who won’t make excuses (like Air Force’s Troy Calhoun). Here was his response when asked about playing at altitude this Saturday in The Springs:

“It’s going to be uncomfortable. Get over it. There’s going to be a lot of talk this week about the trip, the crowd noise, and the altitude. None of those are the challenge. The challenge is Air Force’s football team, and that’s where our focus is. Any of those other things are just a distraction and we are not going to spend 30 seconds on those things. We are going to focus on the challenge, and the challenge is absolutely Air Force’s football team.”

(Gotta love that. Actually, I enjoyed reading the transcript of his entire press conference this week).

Moreover, this is Ellerson’s dream job. His father and two of his brothers are West Point graduates, and he told me it’s “an honor” to be the coach there.

“Obviously it’s a great challenge, but it’s also a special group of young men who have taken on a tremendous opportunity and chosen a different and demanding path, and I get to get my fingerprints on it,” he said. “Professionally, I can’t imagine a greater compliment than to be given the opportunity to participate in the execution of the mission of West Point and develop leaders of character. … If you’re a college football coach and you understand and value what the United States Military Academy is, this has got to be the best job in the world.”

He’s got a tough task ahead of him, as Army has been woeful for a while. The Black Knights have had 12 straight losing seasons and haven’t won more than four games in any of them.

But Army – which messed around with some wide-open passing offenses earlier this decade – thinks it has the right guy to revive the program. At the time he was hired, athletic director Kevin Anderson was quoted as saying that if Ellerson can’t turn the program around, “I don’t know if there is a coach who can.”