Over the last year with the distressing series of problems continuing to come out of the United States Naval Academy on race-based admissions standards, special considerations for D1 enabling athlete-students, and an honor system under stress – many people have asked why aren’t the alumni speaking up?

Well, they are. Last week we had one, this week another.

Today’s guest post is by USNA alumnus, Francisco Alsina (’97).

Recently, the Naval Academy was in the news because of one of its football players. Midshipman Curry is being retained after a positive drug test result for marijuana. Why? Is it because he is a star athlete? According to Chet Gladchuk, director for the Naval Academy Athletic Association, and Ken Niumatalolo, the head coach for the football team, it’s not. Both were rather emphatic in a February 13th newspaper article from The Capital, Annapolis, Maryland’s newspaper, that there is no double standard. I disagree. As an alumni (with a sibling that also attended and graduated) and former company officer, and current sponsor of midshipmen, I am convinced a double standard exists for some.

In the article, mention was made about the medals earned and honorable deeds done by other football players once they hit the fleet. I agree that there are many phenomenal student-athletes at the academy. They do well there and beyond in the fleet. But, to be terse and honest; big deal. It is our job to excel; as midshipmen and Naval officers we are paid and expected to do that. Mention made of medals earned by football players out in the fleet merely obfuscates the current issue. It is a reactive and insidious attempt to deflect criticism. I recognize that Mr. Niumatalolo has never served in the military, but after coaching at Navy for 13 years, I would have expected more of him than this cheap and ineffective tactic. I still remember one of the laws of the Navy from my plebe year: “On the strength of one link in the cable, dependeth the might of the chain, who knows when thou may’st be tested? So live that thou bearest the strain!” The ‘metal’ used to make some of the links (midshipmen) is of inferior quality to begin with, and this is unacceptable. Curry’s front page article for his misdeeds is disappointing, yet increasingly unsurprising, to midshipmen and alumni alike. He didn’t pick up the bad habits at the academy; it must have been before.

Our country, Navy, and those led by academy graduates deserve better than the worst we allow to graduate. Midshipman Curry is pretty bad if we are to believe accounts that he already had not one, not two, but three honor violations before testing positive for marijuana, and has been awarded over three hundred demerits. This poor conduct begs the question, “How many honor offenses or conduct infractions does it take to get kicked out?” But, he’s only a third class midshipman, with two and a half years left. I’m confident he will not graduate if he does not see the error of his ways. If I were him, I would leave after this semester, before he incurs any financial obligation for the education he received (whether it sank in or not). Then, he can smoke all the marijuana-laced cigars he wants, knowingly or unknowingly.

Part of the mission of the Naval Academy is to ‘develop midshipmen morally, mentally, and physically’ but some of the demands varsity and junior varsity sports are putting on midshipmen and the institution is ultimately harming our mission. There are double standards at the academy, contrary to Mr. Gladchuk’s statement in the Capital.

The athletic association says they recruit academically sound recruits, yet only 19 football players are coming to the academy while 35 to 40 are reporting to the Naval Academy Preparatory School (NAPS) this fall. NAPS was originally created to academically prepare enlisted sailors and Marines for the academy. Now, amongst other things, it has become a de facto red shirt year for academically unprepared athletes.

Some football players are allowed to be out of height and weight standards for much of their time at the academy in order to be competitive on the field. The academy may say that these athletes are expected to meet standards before graduation; the same standards can be used to separate other midshipman when they fail to meet them during their tenure, well before their planned graduation.

During some meals, plebe (first year) athletes sit apart from their unit and with their team, where they can relax without being subject to the same rules as non-athlete plebes. Further, varsity athletes, as a group, often sit apart from their company during many meals. In the desire build a strong athletic team, plebes fraternize with upperclass outside of sports events or practice, to the detriment of good order and discipline, bedrock principles of military life.

As a company officer, I was pressured by the chain of command to allow academically unsatisfactory midshipmen to participate in most if not all varsity athletic events when a similar request would never have been made, much less allowed, for nonathletic events. A double standard was created and the entire Brigade knew it. NCAA guidelines were cited by our chain of command, permitting athletic participation for college students so long at their cumulative GPA was above a 2.0. Yet, when athletes we reluctantly approved for sports participation found themselves at academic boards for poor grades, the chain of command came down on company officers for not holding athletes back, citing academy policy allowing us to deny sports participation for athletes with a semester academic GPA below a 2.15. The same chain of command that was silent or outwardly hostile to company officers if we wanted to hold back an athlete from a sporting event due to grades was just as hostile and unsupportive to company officers when athletes were academically unsatisfactory at the end of the semester.

Few know that some candidates applying to the academy are labeled ‘Blue Chip Recruits’. These candidates are recruited for sports at the academy and given special consideration in the admissions process. Raw data I reviewed while on staff at the academy indicated that blue chip recruits don’t remain in the Navy as long as non blue chip athletes after graduation . failing part of the academy’s mission by not being ‘..dedicated to a career of naval service..’ I am not surprised, given that they were brought into the Navy in large part for being pretty good at playing a sport. To be fair, most recruited athletes are not given special consideration in the admissions process. Now, I can expect the athletic association to respond with their own statistics, leading with the fact that varsity athletes have a higher academic GPA, and that was true when I was on staff. However, the difference is so negligible as to be statistically insignificant, and does not account for the different types of majors chosen by midshipmen; some are more academically rigorous than others.

Many midshipman (athletes or not) resent these double standards. Other examples exist, but I’ve made my point.

Knowledge of Midshipman Curry’s positive drug test and its aftermath has hit the fleet. What do Sailors and Marines think of academy graduates now? Naval Academy graduates are supposed to be the best the nation has to offer; but if a recent letter to the Navy Times from a First Class Petty Officer captures the thoughts of our sailors, the perception is the opposite of what it should be. Navy athletics and the Naval Academy is not in a crisis; yet. But, unless current policies change, we can expect more midshipmen of Curry’s caliber to bring dishonor upon the academy. At the end of the day, I hope that those led by academy graduates, upon learning their division officer was a star athlete, will not have cause to wonder if they have an officer worthy of the responsibility entrusted to them.

If his poor conduct and honor violations are not cause to separate Midshipman Curry from the Academy, what is so special about him that allows him to stay? To hear from Mr. Gladchuk and Mr. Niumatalolo, it’s not because he’s a star athlete, but I’m sure that didn’t hurt. And I don’t buy the excuse that Midshipman Curry’s ignorance of exactly what he was smoking is why he is staying in. A former senior enlisted advisor has personally told me the very same excuse didn’t save another midshipman not too long ago from being separated for a positive drug test. So, why is Midshipman Curry allowed to stay? I challenge the Naval Academy to provide some believable response, not falling for the ‘I didn’t know’ defense Curry used.

Francisco Alsina graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1997. He has participated in Operations Northern and Southern Watch, and Iraqi Freedom, deploying four times from 2001 to 2007. Currently, he is an activated reservists awaiting deployment to Pakistan.

Posted by CDRSalamander in Navy

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  • If Curry is permitted to graduate and accept a commission, then one day, he may very well be involved in a separation board for some blue shirt. I can well imagine how awkward that will be when the enlisted man requests mast or courts-martial because of unequal treatment under the 14th amendment. Curry gets to stay regardless of Navy Regulations that mandate administrative separation WITHOUT exception, yet some blue shirt will get tossed.

    There is already a groundswell of distrust regarding the qualifications and merits of officers due to the Zampolits from Millington ramming illegal diversity quotas down people’s throats. Sailors wonder if those appointed over them are holding rank because they are actually qualified, or because the Diversity Bullies demanded other qualities.

    The US Navy has standards, and those should be upheld. I am no longer on active duty, but I am still a taxpayer, and I find the actions of the Naval Academy leadership to be disheartening and unacceptable. Those in charge should lead by example. Those in charge of developing our next generations of Naval Officers have failed in that mission, and ought to resign so that some form of integrity can remain at Annapolis.

    I have already sent letters to my Senators, Snowe and Collins, asking them to stand up a commission to investigate these goings-on at the Academy, and to demand answers why double-standards are present, and why, apparently, some applicants are given admission while other, more qualified, are not.

    The Naval Academy should have only one requirement for those it accepts: Be the BEST and the BRIGHTEST that we can find. All other considerations should be stripped from the process. If it means Navy has a less-talented football team, then so be it. The mission is to develop and commission officers, not football players.


  • Bob Comer

    What about John McCain? Didn’t he get into the Academy due to Daddy and Grand-daddy being Admirals? Some guys who were at the Academy when McCain was there have said that he got into a lot of trouble for “partying.” There are strong indications that he got special treatment or he would have been dismissed. Also, he graduated very near the bottom of his class. Did he really graduate or did Daddy make SURE he graduated. Then there is the incident in Spain where he flew his plane into a High Voltage transmission line, causing the whole city to go dark and the plane to crash. He was very lucky to have survived. BOTTOM LINE: It appears that “special treatment” or “Blue Chip recruits” have been going on for a long time at the Academy. MY OWN PERSONAL OBSERVATION: While I was stationed at San Miguel NCS, PI, 1970, there were CT’s who played softball instead of standing watch! We were short-handed on watch, yet the Navy sent these CT’s all over Asia to play ball! That, and a lot of other reasons, caused me to turn down the VRB and get out of the Navy. SOFTBALL INSTEAD OF THE MISSION! DISGUSTING BEYOND WORDS! So, why does the Academy have a football team?

  • Cap’n Bill

    Were this a court proceeding I’d say that the case has been made. The “system” is failing its responsibilities to the Navy and to the Nation. I’d then venture the thought that sufficient change cannot take place until today’s bigtime emphasis on national athletics is severly dampened down. Try selling that idea to the Leadership!

  • YNSN

    Get rid of the sports, period. It’s obviously not worth it, and we don’t need it at boot camp, except for the Captain’s Cup during your last week there. Talk to me all you want about how it builds character, teamwork and all the rest. But, when I meet the new DIVO’s from an NROTC program or from the USNA. Neither one is any different from the other. The NROTC Officer probably didn’t play any sports either. So obviously, there isn’t a real benefit to me as having a leader who did or did not play sports. If the program is causing all these issues, ditch it.

    I hope the soon to be Ensigns understand how guys like me are going to look at them once they get to the Fleet, once I get to know my DIVO well enough, probably in a months time, I’ll start asking questions. I’ll ask for the details of what really happened. This whole incident puts them behind the eight ball. For one person, the Command at the USNA has said to the Enlisted side of the house that MIDNs are more important than they are. Enlisted Sailors are kicked out of the Navy for smoking spice, a substance that isn’t considered illegal by law enforcement. You can buy it at any tobacco store. I did the paperwork for a E4 to apply to the USNA, on Christmas leave he smoked pot and tested positive, he was kicked out even though he was accepted to the USNA. The athletic department at the USNA is wrong.

    I will never forget that this happened, nor never forgive it. This issue is bigger than the potential of one person. It is a shame. It dishonors the Navy, the Fleet and the USNA.

  • Lee Cohen

    I would respectfully disagree with Francisco Alsina’s point that there is a double-standard at the Naval Academy. There is seemingly no line midshipmen have to cross to get expelled. Not drinking in class, popping positive for drugs, theft, multiple honor offenses. And the lack of standards applies to minorities, majorities, athletes, and non-athletes. The new “nurturing” environment at USNA and its lack of standards applies to all of the Brigade.

  • Francisco Alsina

    No double standard? Please refute my claim about varsity athletes and movement orders for away sporting events, height and weight standards, and the team tables for Plebe varsity athletes. I think many double standards exist; some of which are strictly for varsity athletes. However, I do agree that there is a nurturing environment now, but why? I can’t help but think it’s partly because of the poor quality of some of the midshipmen.

  • GunDog15

    Just another reason why I’m so happy that my daughter was not admitted to the USNA due to the color of her skin (and not the content of her character and academic achievements)!

  • Redeye80

    I think the answer is pretty simple. The lack of response is telling!

    Most alumni understand that trying to change direction of the senior leadership of the Academy and the Navy is like trying to boil the ocean. Not enough energy.

    The Alumni Association does not represent the alumni. They only serve as a mouthpiece for Commandant.

    Follow the money. Stop supporting the Alumni Association and NAAA, then maybe they will start paying attention to the Alumni. I stopped sending money 20 years ago.

  • Maj USMC

    I’m shocked…shocked to find a double standard here. Extreme pardons are sought from the various ghosts of Casablanca. A double standard for athletes at the service academies has been general knowledge for a long, long time. From a simple Jarhead’s perspective…big deal…tempest in a teapot. Seriously, The USNA has been a source of strain in my Corps for decades. This is just one more well known piece to the puzzle. In my not so humble opinion, only two kinds of officers emerge from the USNA and enter my Corps. Damn good Marines I would serve with again in a heartbeat…and couple of self-important buffoons with a sense of entitlement and a sarcastic slacker’s resistance to following orders that was a cancer to any unit they joined. From a global perspective…no better or worse than any other group of officers. Fortunately for the Corps, we lock up our Lieutenants for 6 months at The Basic School where most see the light by graduation. Not perfect but my 6 months in Quantico were a touchstone for the remainder of my time in the Corps. Oddly, the few USNA graduates in my class of mostly NROTC and PLC sourced Lt’s really didn’t do that well and, quite frankly, I rather enjoyed the many times that I was permitted to legally clock one particular academy puke with the sticks. The lil’ whiner. Again, I clearly understand that he was not the norm and he was out as soon as his obligation was finished. This was also before the academy had to send Marine inclined mids to Quantico for OCS. Maybe that fixed the problem…I have no recent knowledge to support my position.

    The better question to be asking is…Why do I, as a country, have a Naval Academy? What do you bring to the defense of this great nation that I can’t get by expanding NROTC or other commissioning sources? Don’t even try to sell me on the cost. We all know that an NROTC graduate is “Cheaper”. Quality officer? Good luck in selling that to the rest of the world…you know, the one outside your cloister… Engineers and other Technical Degrees? Nope, I can get those from all manner of American college and university. You create an Officer with a Nautical Mentality and a Sea Power bias? Hmm, let me think on that one a bit…it might work but it’s not good enough. Seriously, ponder the existence of the USNA. Why do you exist? Oh, and the answer is not “Because” or “Tradition”…

    I clearly acknowledge that being a Sailor at sea is not easy. Way too many things can go wrong in a hurry out there and it certainly does take a degree of professionalism and training and yes, even heart to do a passable job. And since we all acknowledge this, why does the Navy still send boot ensigns to ships with almost no training? Come on, honestly. Why don’t you lock your little Ensigns up for a few months to teach them how to be a decent little SWO with some basic competencies that future training and experience will sharpen and expand. Too hard? Not if you get the USNA out of the business of college degrees and back into the business of training naval warriors where it belongs. Four years of instruction at a cost of who really knows, to generate a BS in Econ and English??? Are you kidding me? For the cost of one graduated academy English major, I can probably graduate at least five English majors from The Ohio State NROTC program. Face it, defending the USNA, or any one of the service academies, is a hard row to hoe if you only look at the facts.

    I will grant you one argument though. America wants an Academy…well, at least so far… And that, in a nutshell, is the only reason you still exist.

  • Almost Class of ’55

    I don’t know anything about this Curry other than what appears here, but the notion that a double standard does not exist is nonsense. Five weeks before ’55 graduated, I was shown the gate. My crime was owning a car and driving it within the seven mile limit with beer on my breath. I knew what the rules were, I broke them and I richly deserved what happened to me. It was a necessary wake-up call that resulted in a real change in my attitude. Am I aware of athlites being treated otherwise for similar or worse behavior? You bet I am. I subsequently earned a commission in another branch and served with some distinction. If the Curry charge is accurate, Curry should take his lumps, learn something from the experience and get on with his life.