2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Q&A: Air Force football coach Troy Calhoun

Published: January 21, 2014, 7:57 pm, by Brent Briggeman

Troy Calhoun spoke with reporters for the first time in nearly two months on Tuesday morning. Here’s a portion of the conversation:


Q: How has the loss of two coaches impacted recruiting at this critical juncture?

TC: You have a plan in place. We’ve been lucky, we’ve had this before where we’ve had two coaches who have left in the month of January. What’s really a problem is if you have four or five coaches who leave. We’re a little bit lucky. As of today we have 11 coaches who are on the road. It’s not like we’ve got a shortage of manpower right now. Actually we’re pretty healthy in that way, just assignment-wise we really haven’t had to miss a beat. Clay (Hendrix), who’s always had half of Georgia, right now has the whole state.

Q: You’ve indicated in the past the value of having Air Force coaches on the staff. Do you still feel that way?

TC: You need a balance. Certainly helps to have guys that have been officers who embrace the culture of the academy and more than anything else understand what the priorities are. There’s only one priority at the Air Force Academy, and that is to develop well-educated young men and women who are going to be good Air Force officers. That’s the mission.

Are there any former Air Force players on a short list of assistant candidates?

Could be, yes sir.

When you say there needs to be a balance on your staff, are you concerned it’s too heavily tilted toward academy graduates?

Concerned? No. The key is to have very qualified people who understand the recruiting aspect of the Air Force Academy and first and foremost are committed to the mission of the Air Force Academy. The priority is we want young men and young women to have the maturity character-wise to be good second lieutenants when they depart the academy.

In your evaluation of the program, have you decided to make changes for the upcoming season?

We have, and we’ll continue to do that. Really, we did a good bit of that in December and early January and we’ll do it even more on the road right now on recruiting. Once we get closer to spring ball (we’ll see an idea of what that will be).

Are there any updates on trying to obtain a hardship semester for quarterback Kale Pearson, which would allow him to come back for another season after 2014?

Pearson? No sir. That hasn’t come through, yet. Whether it will or will not, that’s a decision to be made … that’s not our decision. You probably need to ask the cadet wing. It’s a combination of the cadet wing, the dean of faculty and the academy board.

Is there a concern on the part of you or your staff with a disconnect with the fan base? The attendance numbers were likely skewed last year because of so many night games and the weather in the case of UNLV, but how worried are you with retaining your fans?

I think the key is this, to me if you value your customers, like for Brian and Charlton, they’re going to have great game venues (at Indiana and Nebraska). If you value your customers on some of the basics on where you’re going to be the most dynamic. The most proactive. Some of those basics include restrooms, concessions, and I think consistency at kickoff. I think there’s real merit in trying to kick off every game right around noon on Saturday. You can have better weather, allow people to have a fuller weekend and at the same time you get there in the morning you can kind of make your own pregame festivities, too. If you value your customers, your home base, you want to be very modern and very consistent in that regard.

Do you see your responsibility in communicating with the customers, with the fan base, as part of that equation?

I think the key is to be very open, very accessible. Make sure if people want to come watch practice, to be able to do that. I think we’re one of the few programs that allows that out of the top seven conferences. The other part is just to make sure you have reasonable prices, that parking is not outrageous when it comes to the cost and then run a program which is part of the institution – which is what we’re going to do.

Are there any updates on the fundraising or progress of the proposed stadium renovations?

That’s something you’ll have to ask somebody else.

Do you anticipate another large number of games on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturday nights?

I think the home team ought to have some sort of latitude, just so you know this can be the best kickoff time for the school, the student body – or the cadet wing in this case – and then to try to develop some constancy week in, week out  in that regard, also.

Don’t you have to convince the conference of that first of all?

(Laughs) I guess so.