In the New Era for University Sports, the Army-Navy is a Student-Athlete Exhibition

Ten years ago, Steve Erzinger was a big fan with 210 pounds and was one of the captains of the army football team. However when he went to his last game against the Navy, he was barely 190 pounds.

Hours before the start, Erzinger was on a training desk in FedEx Field, Maryland, when fluid flowed through his body connected to the IV. He had the flu, but most of his weight loss came before the illness.

He was not alone among the Black Horsemen. I watched as one player in a row gets smaller in the 2011 season when they try to balance soldiers, students and athletes. The unfortunate injuries became chronic, as cadets were still forced to attend their military duties while attending sports to attend classes and the library.

There was neither comfort nor healing. Nor did Erzinger or any of the other wounded and beaten players in the locker rooms of the Army and Navy go (choose one) to the American Game, the Civil War, or the Game of Honor.

U.S. service personnel from around the world, pastors and college football fans watched and celebrated this ethic on Saturday when the Navy (4-8) defeated the Army (8-4) 17-13 in its 122nd match. this time at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford. , NJ

But in this new era of the NCAA, pictorially and figuratively, the academies are staffed by the true back-athletes of Division I whose game is seriously second only to their other quests. Because the government pays for their education, housing and expenses, Cadets and Midshipmen are considered employees and federal laws prohibit the use of public works for private gain.

Erzinger said: “I am in favor, but service academies have always been the cornerstone that student-athletes should be. “We have a compulsory military program and duties that could not be avoided. Don’t get me wrong – athletes in schools that have a different work-life balance pay their dues. The NCAA has always been a money game, but we are not.

The NCAA, which has faced pressure from many states, changed its rules this year to allow athletes in its three divisions to seek outside contracts, including approvals and other forms of income. Nevertheless, the association’s changing stance has set a clear red line for university sports administrators: Unlike job academies, universities generally do not want athletes to be considered as employees.

In West Point, NY, where I researched for a year a book, cadets take 17 to 20 hours of Ivy League quality classes and participate in year-round physical and tactical training to maintain discipline in military requirements. Without summer vacations, or too much chance of taking a summer course to lighten the academic bar during the season.

Barracks Beast – or basic training – starts at the end of June before students start classes. The upper classes are under presidential training, who can perform simulated combat missions and Ranger School and can become cadets in places like Fort Benning, Ga., And Germany.

Playing football is also the easiest, most enjoyable and minimal thing they do during their 47 months as officers in training.

In the modern era, several of them have won careers in the NFL Baltimore Ravens striker Alejandro Villanueva, a two-time Pro Bowler who has played for the Army. New England Patriots longtime snapper Joe Cardona, who played for the Navy, won two Super Bowls.

The vast majority have been serving their country for at least five years. Erzinger, for example, named them Rangers and sent them to Afghanistan. He became a member of the 173rd Air Brigade, which serves in Estonia, Lithuania and Ukraine.

He left the military in 2017, earned an MBA at Rice University in Houston and is an investment banker in the energy sector there. He is married and has a 16-month-old son Eli.

One of his football co-chairs, Capt. Andrew Rodriguez, commander of the 1st Stryker War Team of the 4th Infantry Brigade, holds a master’s degree in mechanical and business engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and teaches at West Point.

His team’s extensive writing chain includes Green Berets and educators, bankers and engineers, small business owners and nonprofit developers. The topic burns at this time of year, with the talk of lessons at West Point and the friendship that is being lost.

“What I have learned from football and West Point is how one handles pressure and understands what one does. If everyone is on a mission, you will succeed,” Erzinger said. “I had a sense of purpose in the army. You go to the outside world and it is more of a personal sport. ”

There are also memories of success, though some of them are precious. Erzinger won just one season in 2010, when the Black Horsemen defeated the Southern Methodist University in the Armed Forces Bowl.

He also never hit the Navy.

In his senior season, Erzinger stepped off the training table and threw an IV drop and a massive defense led to the army victory. The Black Knights were down 27-21 on the 25-yard Midshipmen line with just under four points left. He was fourth-and-7th. They did not reach.

At the time, it was devastating.

“It almost doesn’t work,” he said, his eyes red. “That’s something I have to live with now.”

Ten years later, it does not do much harm. He planned to barbecue at his home on Saturday with dozens of other West Pointerers – including some teammates – and their families.

“I want us to succeed,” he said. “But I especially want it to be competitive and both teams to be healthy. I know where the players of both teams came from and where they are going. We all promised and I do not regret it. I’m sure they will too. nabin. ”

Joe Drape spent a year in the cadets for a book, “The First Soldiers: Mission, Honor, Country and Football at West Point.”

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