• Evidence points to sports being impacted if Air Force faces budget cuts

    Fri, February 28, 2014 by Brent Briggeman with no comments

    President Obama has yet to announce his budget, so anything regarding the impact of potential budget cuts to Air Force remains purely speculative. However, it’s becoming more and more clear that sports will be impacted if serious cuts need to be made.

    Also, we have obtained the following email sent from Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson, the academy’s superintendent, to a former baseball player. Judge for yourself, but Gen. Johnson certainly doesn’t dismiss the possibility that sports will be in the crosshairs.

    As The Gazette reported earlier this week, supporters from several sports have shown concern over rumors that they could be cut at the academy.

    Here is the superintendent’s full letter:


    I have refrained from responding to the many emails I’ve received
    regarding sports at USAFA, primarily because every budget decision
    remains predecisional until the USAF makes decisions based on the
    President’s Budget due next week.  We have however by necessity
    absolutely had to build contingency plans.

    Also, if you are familiar with my background, you’ll know that as a
    former Academic All American  USAFA basketball player I completely
    understand the value intercollegiate sports to the aspect of Competition
    in the education and training programs at our Air Force’s Academy.

    Of course I do not desire to cut or lose any sports, any academic
    courses, any enlisted military trainers, or any support for various
    installation maintenance projects–including the Chapel– or anything
    else.  However, our DOD and our Air Force are entering an interwar
    period of change and drastically reduced budgets.  About 25,000 active
    duty airman–officers and enlisted, thousands of GS civilians and
    hundreds of aircraft–entire fleets–could be cut. Our senior AF leaders
    must make gut wrenching decisions on a large scale. We simply cannot
    afford the status quo.

    We have thought through carefully and are continuing to analyze how we
    can align ourselves with  AF needs while preserving the Essence of what
    the AF needs from its Academy.

    I try to keep our challenges in the context of the big picture.

    I hope you can do so as well.

    Thank you for your concern.

    Very respectfully,

    Michelle Johnson
    Lt Gen USAF

  • Air Force fencer saves life of girl, 15, with Heimlich maneuver

    Fri, February 21, 2014 by Brent Briggeman with no comments

    Air Force issued the following press release today, detailing the quick thinking that allowed sophomore fencer Madeleine Girardot to save the life of a 15-year-old Colorado Springs girl while in Virginia Beach for a fencing competition.


    Air Force fencer performs the life-saving action


    Madeleine Girardot

    U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo. – Air Force sophomore fencer Madeleine Girardot, Atlanta, Ga., CS23, performed the life-saving Heimlich maneuver on a young fencer, Helen Landwehr from Colorado Springs while at the North American Cup in Virginia Beach, Jan. 18, 2014.

    As told by Head Coach Abdel Salem: After a long day of fencing at the North American Cup in Virginia Beach, the Air Force fencing team went to dinner at a Japanese restaurant. There were a lot of other fencers at the restaurant and we ended up sitting next to some fencers from Colorado Springs. Madeleine was sitting three seats away from Helen.

    According to Salem, Helen is a quiet fifteen year old young lady and was at the dinner sitting across from her mother. We were all engaged in conversation throughout the evening. Helen seemed to be having fun sitting with the cadets from the Air Force Academy fencing team. Suddenly, Helen started looking at her mother. Helen did not say anything, but tears were running from Helen’s eyes, in a way that I had never experienced before. It was like a faucet had suddenly turned on inside her eyes. Helen’s mom asked, “Helen, what’s wrong?” Helen did not answer, but the tears kept rolling. Madeleine approached Helen and, asked her if she is choking. She did not respond as tears still streamed down Helen’s face, and her lips had a strange blue color to them. Madeleine came up behind Helen’s seat and delivered two strong blows to the girl’s back. It did not appear to be working because Helen was still crying, unable to speak or breathe, and was slowly turning more blue. Madeleine authoritatively said to Helen “If you are choking stand up now.” Madeleine decided to take over the situation and deal with it. Helen stood up, still looking very distressed as Madeleine placed herself behind Helen and performed the Heimlich maneuver.

    I was very impressed with Madeleine for taking charge of the situation. After administering the Heimlich maneuver twice to Helen; she seemed relieved and less stressed even if the tears were still falling. She looked very embarrassed, but still smiled. It seemed like no one knew exactly what was going on. Even Helen sounded as if she did not fully understand what was happening. Madeleine told everyone that everything was okay, “Helen was plainly choking.”

    When Madeleine saw Helen smiling, breathing, and able to talk, she returned to her seat. When others asked why nothing came out of Helen’s mouth as it does in the movies, Helen said that she could not breathe or talk and that when Madeleine performed the Heimlich maneuver, she felt something come out of her throat. She said she was too embarrassed to spit it out because that would be impolite, so she swallowed the piece of food. After that, she felt better. Everyone was happy, and Helen, although a little hesitant to eat again, carefully began to start eating and enjoy her night.

    Madeleine was receiving a lot of praise from the adults, cadets, other fencers and the waitress. Nonetheless, Madeleine did not act as if she had done anything heroic. On the contrary, she only saw herself as sensing someone in need and stepping in to help. I did not think much about it until later when I got an email from Helen’s coach. The email said, “Helen’s mother wants everyone to know about the incident and how grateful and impressed she was at the confidence and skill Madeleine demonstrated. She told her entire club that one of the Academy’s fencers had saved her daughter’s life.”

    “I knew she was choking because she started off trying to cough, and when I looked back a few moments later she appeared not to be breathing, there were tears pouring down her face, and she looked a little different color,” said Girardot.

    “In high school I was a lifeguard, I am CPR AED certified and learned all of those techniques, including the Heimlich maneuver.”  Girardot attended Henry W. Grady High School in Atlanta.

    Girardot adds, “I think it is important for everyone to know basic life-saving techniques because you never know when and if you might be in a situation where you will need to use them.”

  • Mountain West clarifies Thanksgiving week policy as it impacts AFA

    Fri, February 21, 2014 by Brent Briggeman with no comments

    Air Force coach Troy Calhoun detests playing games on Saturday following Thanksgiving, but he no longer has any choice.

    Under the Mountain West’s new format, which includes a championshp game, all teams must play the week prior to that game. Not having a game in that week, the league reasons, would provide an unfair advantage for a team that would gain extra rest and preparation time for that game.

    As it stands that championship game is scheduled for the week after Thanksgiving weekend, which means Air Force is stuck with a game following the holiday for the foreseeable future.

    “We used to request nearly every time,” said Javan Hedlund, the Mountain West’s associate commissioner. “But it’s now the policy where everyone has to play that weekend unless somehow the calendar changes.”

    Calhoun had prefered to take that weekend off in an effort to provide his players with a needed break. Freshmen, in particular, have been at the academy for five months at that point and the Thanksgiving break allows them a chance to return home. With a game on that Saturday, the football teams remains at the academy during that week. The only opportunity to return home then becomes an open-week weekend, but that is generally only a two- or three-day refresher.

    The next opportunity for the cadet athletes to return home is on Christmas, but as the team learned during a run of six consecutive bowl games, that trip is also often cut short because of football.

  • Air Force football schedule released

    Thu, February 20, 2014 by Brent Briggeman with no comments

    The Mountain West released its full football schedule on Thursday. Air Force already knew its opponents and locations, but the schedule gives the order of those games (specific days can change as television networks take games and can move them to Thursdays and Fridays).

    The primary item of note is that the Falcons largely miss the potential for terrible weather in its road schedule. They hit Wyoming on Sept. 6 and the two conference road games in November will be played at San Diego State and UNLV.

    Also, the Falcons have a standing request with the Mountain West to not play the week of Thanksgiving, and that has again been ignored as the Falcons will host Colorado State two days after the holiday on Nov. 29.

    Air Force’s open dates are Sept. 20 and Oct. 25, which breaks the schedule as perfectly as possible with three games before the first bye, four games between the two and four games following the second.

    Click here for the full Mountain West schedule

    Here is the full schedule as it now stands. Again, dates can shift within two or three days.

    Aug. 30 – Nicholls State at Air Force
    Sept. 6 – Air Force at Wyoming
    Sept. 13 – Air Force at Georgia State (at the Georgia Dome)
    Sept. 27 – Boise State at Air Force
    Oct. 4 – Navy at Air Force
    Oct. 11 – Air Force at Utah State
    Oct. 18 – New Mexico at Air Force
    Nov. 1 – Air Force at Army
    Nov. 8 – Air Force at UNLV
    Nov. 15 – Nevada at Air Force
    Nov. 22 – Air Force at San Diego State
    Nov. 29 – Colorado State at Air Force

  • Falcons give football coaching staff a shakeup

    Tue, February 18, 2014 by Brent Briggeman with no comments

    Titles and responsibilities received a thorough makeover as Air Force released its new coaching roster in advance of the beginning of spring practice.

    Mike Thiessen will take over as the sole offensive coordinator – a position he split with three others last year – and Steve Russ will be the defensive coordinator.

    The major positions shifts include Matt Weikert from defensive line to outside linebackers, Russ from inside linebackers to defensive backs and John Rudzinski from outside linebackers to secondary.

    Newly hired veteran coaches Tim Cross and Ron Vanderlinden were given their spots on the defense, with Cross coaching the line and Vanderlinden the inside linebackers.

    The Falcons also brought aboard Capt. Drew Fowler as an assistant linebackers coach. Fowler is a 2008 Air Force graduate who was twice voted the team’s defensive MVP and led the Mountain West in tackles as a junior.



    Air Force football coaching staff (last year’s title/role is listed in parenthesis if there was a change)

    Troy Calhoun, head coach



    Mike Thiessen, offensive coordinator/wide receivers (Assistant head coach/offensive coordinator/wide receivers; *-denotes newcomer)

    Clay Hendrix, associate head coach/offensive line (associate head coach/offensive coordinator/offensive line)

    Jake Campbell, assistant backfield

    Ben Miller, special teams coordinator/running backs

    Jake Moreland, tight ends

    Blane Morgan, quarterbacks (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks)



    Steve Russ, assistant head coach/defensive coordinator/defensive backs (assistant head coach/co-defensive coordinator/inside linebackers)

    *Tim Cross, defensive line

    *Capt. Drew Fowler, assistant linebackers

    Lt. Col. Steve Pipes, assistant defensive line (JV head coach/varsity assistant)

    John Rudzinski, recruiting coordinator/secondary (recruiting coordinator/outside linebackers)

    *Ron Vanderlinden, inside linebackers

    Matt Weikert, outside linebackers (defensive line)



    Steve Senn, executive assistant/quality control

    Matt McGettigan, Strength and Conditioning




  • Issues to watch during spring football for Air Force

    Tue, February 18, 2014 by Brent Briggeman with no comments

    What to watch in Air Force spring practice
    “Spring” practice begins for Air Force on Wednesday afternoon with the start of 15 dates that will be competed by the actual beginning of spring. Semantics aside, there are plenty of issues to watch as the Falcons begin rebuilding after a 2-10 season, here are a few:

    1. Coaching assignments
    With two new coaches in the mix – Tim Cross and Ron Vanderlinden – the Falcons will likely reveal who will be coaching in which spots. The only change coach Troy Calhoun has confirmed is that Steve Russ has assumed the sole defensive coordinator position and will coach defensive backs, a switch from coaching inside linebackers and perhaps indicative of an intention to be more physical vs. receivers on the line of scrimmage.

    2. Personnel in the running game
    After losing its top rusher and three starting offensive lineman, spring practice figures to be an open audition to fill the key components in the Falcons’ running attack. Jon Lee figures to be the frontrunner to take the bulk of carries at tailback, but after an injury-plagued junior season that saw him gain just 429 yards – 130 of which came in the opener against Colgate. Calhoun likes durability, so look for sophomore Devin Rushing to get an honest crack at the position.

    3. Everything on defense
    Only one senior starter will be missing from last year’s squad, but that doesn’t mean changes won’t be in order for a unit that ranked near the bottom on the nation in nearly every key statistic. The change in coaches could signal a change in philosophy or scheme, which in turn could impact the personnel. No returning starter should be considered untouchable when it comes to a position battle.


    Tentative Practice Schedule

    Wednesday – 3:15 p.m., Practice fields/HAC
    Thursday – 3:15 p.m., Practice fields/HAC
    Saturday – 9:30 a.m., Practice fields/HAC
    Monday – 3:15 p.m., Practice fields/HAC
    Feb. 26 – 3:15 p.m., Practice fields/HAC
    Feb. 27 – 3:15 p.m., Practice fields/HAC
    Mar. 1 – 9:30 a.m., Falcon Stadium
    Mar. 3 – 3:15 p.m., Practice fields/HAC
    Mar. 4 – 3:15 p.m., Practice fields/HAC
    Mar. 6 – 3:15 p.m., Practice fields/HAC
    Mar. 8 – 9:30 a.m., Falcon Stadium/HAC
    Mar. 11 – 3:15 p.m., Practice fields/HAC
    Mar. 12 – 3:15 p.m., Practice fields/HAC
    Mar. 18 – 3:15 p.m., Practice fields/HAC
    Mar. 19 – 3:15 p.m., TBA

  • Falcons tour training grounds of Navy SEALs near San Diego

    Sun, February 16, 2014 by Brent Briggeman with no comments

    afaseals afaseals (1) afaseals (2)

    Air Force basketball players were given a tour of Navy SEALs training facilities on Coronado Island, near San Diego. (PHOTOS SUBMITTED BY CAPT. NICK WELCH)

    Air Force basketball players were given a tour of Navy SEALs training facilities on Coronado Island, near San Diego. (PHOTOS SUBMITTED BY CAPT. NICK WELCH)

    The Air Force basketball time utilized its extra time away from the academy to take a military-related field trip.

    In what was universally regarded as an “eye-opening experience,” the Falcons toured Navy SEALS training grounds on CoronadoIsland near San Diego.

    The Falcons, of course, are put through tests far beyond their typical college peers between basic training and military lifestyle. But this was a whole different level.

    “It’s not like that,” sophomore Tre’ Coggins said. “Not even close.”

    Added junior Kamryn Williams.

    “It’s not something I would want to do, that’s for sure.”

    The cadets did see some similarities, from the structure of different stations to the formations for certain calistenics all the way down to the footprints to show where and how to stand.

    “What they do is unbelievable,” Falcons coach Dave Pilipovich said. “I really thank them for what they do. It was awesome for our guys to see that.”

    With games in San Jose, Calif., on Wednesday and San Diego on Saturday, it was not feasible to return to Colorado Springs for what would have been a half day of classes. Instead, the team utilized the time to work with traveling tutors, take tours like the one at CoronadoIsland and utilize the extra oxygen for some intense practices.

    “It was nice being at sea level,” junior Max Yon said. “It was a business trip.”

  • Players, coaches offer take on Air Force game

    Sat, February 15, 2014 by Brent Briggeman with no comments

    There were more compelling quotes after Air Force’s game at No. 5 San Diego State on Saturday night that made it into the normal story and notes. Here’s a little extra:

    Air Force’s Max Yon, on the fight the team has shown, staying close against San Diego State and in many games that looked as though they would turn into blowouts:

    I think my freshman year and last year we had teams that really would have just folded and that lead would have gone to 20, 25, 30. Here, this team really has some fight in it. Once we get some more experience, some more wins at the end of this year and going into next year we’re going to be able to close out games.


    Air Force’s Kamryn Williams on the value of this game, played against a top-10 opponent in a sold-out arena:

    There’s definitely no moral victories in this game. At the same time we can get a lot out of this. We gave everything we’ve got to try to win this game.


    Air Force coach Dave Pilipovich:

    We’re good enough to win some games here. We’re good enough to get to Vegas and surprise some people.


    San Diego State coach Steve Fisher on defending the Falcons:

    Air Force is a difficult team to guard with their back cuts and movement, but I thought for the most part we did a really good job on that. We did a good job on their key play (Tre’) Coggins. He had 29 points on us in the first meeting, and we did a really good job of making it hard for him to get good, clean looks. That was a huge piece of what we needed to do.


    Fisher on Air Force handling the full-court press:

    We almost got them, and we didn’t get them. I’ll have to go back and look to see how many scores they got out of the press. We do that after every game. Against Air Force ath their place, we pressed them 18 times in the first half and forced six turnovers, but we didn’t socre on any of the six turnovers we faced. SO I don’t know how many baskets they got off of it, but we also wanted to burn a little shot clock, not allow them to push the ball up the floor and run their movement offense for 30 seconds, but for 20 seconds. That’s also what the press allowed us to do.

  • Air Force first baseman earns preseason MW honors

    Tue, February 11, 2014 by Brent Briggeman with no comments

    Air Force’s Seth Kline has earned a spot on the Mountain West Preseason All-Conference baseball team. See the below press release from the academy for details:


    Kline Named Mountain West Preseason All-Conference

    SethKlineAir Force baseball senior first baseman Seth Kline has been named to the 2014 Mountain West Preseason All-Conference Team.  Kline is a two-time All-Mountain West selection.

    Kline is Air Force’s top returning hitter, leading the team in hitting as a junior with a .356 batting average to go with 40 RBIs.  The Yakima, Wash., native also led the Falcons in hitting as a sophomore, when he batted .322 with five home runs.

    The Falcons were also picked to finish sixth out of seven teams in the conference preseason coach’s poll.  New Mexico and San Diego State were picked to finish first.  UNLV was third, followed by Fresno State and Nevada.  San José State was picked seventh.

    Air Force opens the 2014 season at the Texas State Baseball Invitational, taking on Washington on Feb. 14.

  • Awini confirms intent to play at CU in online publication

    Tue, February 11, 2014 by Brent Briggeman with no comments

    Jaleel Awini has confirmed what The Gazette reported on Monday – that he intends to play football at the University of Colorado.

    In a story on BuffStampede.com, Awini is quoted as saying: “I am going to go to CU. I told their coaches that and they were excited. They think I will bring a little athleticism to the team at quarterback or wide receiver, anywhere.”

     Awini told the publication that he was initially offered a scholarship by Buffaloes coach Dan Hawkins out of high school, but after Hawkins was fired replacement Jon Embree did not share that interest.

     Awini also said the military lifestyle was the primary reason he left Air Force, though it may not necessarilyhave been his choice after he was dropped from good standing as a cadet in March and disenrolled later in the semester.

     The quarterback started three games for Air Force and accounted for 495 total yards.

     ”I am very thankful for my time at Air Force and thankful for just getting the opportunity to be there but the military lifestyle is not for everybody,” Awini told BuffaloStampede.com’s Adam Munsterteiger. “I learned a lot from my time at Air Force but football is just a little more important to me than the military lifestyle.”

    The publication reports that Awini is currently attending junior college classes and will watch Colorado’s spring practices as a spectator and enroll in the university this summer. He will likely have to sit out the 2014 season and have two years of eligiblity remaining after that.

    The Gazette first reported Awini’s intention to play at Colorado after noting that his Twitter handle had been changed to include: “University of Colorado football.”

    Air Force coach Troy Calhoun had nothing but positive things to say about his former quarterback.

    “He was a good worker on the field,” Calhoun said. ”He is certainly a polite young man.

    “There’s good ability there and a respectful young man.”

    Awini was ineligible his freshman year at Air Force because he had attended a few summer classes at Colorado State between his year at the Air Force prep school and his freshman year. The Rams then did not release him from a commitment.