WESTERN DOT, K.A. — Lieutenant General Darryl A. Williams is uniquely qualified to assess the relationship between football and cadet life at the U.S. Military Academy. Williams, superintendent of West Point, played for the Black Knights on defense in the early eighties. He chased Doug Flutie, winner of the Heisman Trophy in Boston College, and looted Dan Marino’s future Pittsburgh Famer Hall. He also met two other American panthers.

In the next game, Williams said that Jimbo Covert and Mark May escaped the trap and beat me… I’m off the field. Mark May won the Outland trophy this year. Six feet – seven, 330 pounds. They went around the corner and said: Okay, did you grab our quarterback? We’re coming with you.

Normally, the newly planned life of the cadets, who still serve, cries out for a football holiday on Saturday, a pinprick that relieves the tension caused by a combination of intense military and university programs. An autumn Saturday at your post at West Point – whatever you do, don’t call it a campus – becomes as much a party as a sporting event. Tents set up at Trophy Point, a 150-foot high cliff above the Hudson River. There’s no better place in this sport.


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A few steps in the morning, half of the 4400 cadets, 18 regiments in total, organize a military parade on the 40 hectares of green plain, which serves as the historic center of Lent. The parade is not only observed by the academy’s management, but also by the citizens who fill the stands and spread out to the edge of the plain. Williams also placed the tailgate in a huge tent that stood in the garden of the 200 year old director’s cabin.

But these are not normal times. Last week, 110 cadets were quarantined at West Point after a contact identified their exposure to COVID-19, according to Military.com. So far, no cadet has ever tested positive. But the football team checked into a local hotel as a precaution. In a season like no other, no one is surprised. And it’s a season like no other.

This season, on Army Football Saturday, there is no giant tent for the Super Neighborhood. There’s no tent at the back door. There are no fans for the line, no one to see the corps parade. The only fans watching the Black Knights are their fellow cadets. During the COWID-19 pandemic, when cadets are not allowed to march on a base and citizens are not allowed to do so, the role of football as a safety valve increases.

It’s a good way to get away from everything and relax, Sergeant Kaylee Conrad said. It’s always nice to see everyone’s face.

Nowadays, nose to nose. There’s a cloaking device in the hull. It’s better than nothing, Conrad said with a smile.

Fault! The file name is not specified. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, only cadets are allowed to play military football, not post fans. Sarah Naomi Levkovich for ESPN

The 800 families living in the post office can get in and out through the three doors. The cadets must stay. There are several bowling alleys, a golf course and many hiking and jogging trails. You can also kayak and fish at the Lask Reservoir near Mici Stadium. The academy sometimes allows the use of food trucks on campus. There was the Oktoberfest. But there are many ways to let off steam, except football.

The only military command on a soccer Saturday is a parade. When the cadets have finished their part of the day, they can get dressed and relax. Without civilians surrounding a wide plain, the cadet formations seem even further away than normal. The morning of the 24th. October at the 19-seater Mercer game, 224 seats in the Superintendent’s box, only four were not in uniform.

However, the students under the box do their work by their announcements through the public address system, where the identity of each battalion, the company putting it together, or the names, ranks and residences of the senior officers are virtually unknown.

Even without an audience, people are always nervous, said Captain Caseya Losh, the main speaker. She nodded her head to the head of the academy who watched the cadets on the march. You’re really talking to them. The generals have nothing to fear, they want to talk to us. General Williams likes to talk.

If you had to prepare an officer to run West Point during a pandemic, you could choose Williams. He led the army’s efforts during the Ebola pandemic in Liberia in 2015. Before that, he led an army program aimed at mental and emotional stability. He takes science seriously and understands the damage that insulation causes to the hull.

Fault! The file name is not specified. Before becoming Chief Inspector of West Point in 2018, Lieutenant General Darryl A. Williams led the army’s efforts during the 2015 Ebola pandemic in Liberia and led an army programme focused on mental and emotional resilience. Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire about Getty Images.

Here at West Point, Williams said football is king. There were many references to football as a fight. He’s a long way from the fight. But some analogies in terms of preparation, violence, coordination, orchestration in relation to a game plan are similar to battle plans. So analogies work very well in our body culture.

Williams is watching the games on the Army side, which is also good. This season Superintendent Mitchie’s locker room has no VIPs from Washington and no people from the Pentagon. For the game, Mercer has only lodge guests – a handful of employees of the Department of Public Works, suspended until they have to close Mitchie after the game.

West Point continued as many of its football rituals as possible. The guns on the other side of the Loop Reservoir continue to fire after each landing, one for each of the six points. This season they feel stronger because there is no noise from a rival audience. A team of five paratroopers will fall from an altitude of 4,000 feet to throw the match ball, weather permitting. Jumpers are used to landing in an empty Mitchie; they do it all the time for practice. Jumping into a broken Mitchie is another matter.

If the hull’s there, you can feel it in the air, Captain Zack King said. As soon as you are deep enough to really hear them and this announcer is encouraged by the crowd, you can feel it. It depends on their strength, but about 1000 feet is the lowest level you will reach before you start listening to them.

The best thing is to shout, look away and know what the coach is saying. It’s not just him opening his mouth.

The senior army officer, Cadet Lieutenant John Rattigan, plays in front of a limited audience.

The Corps is expecting them this season. There’s no one else.

The best thing is to yell at it, said Cadet Lieutenant John Rattigan, first linebacker, and you look on the sidelines and you know what your coach says. It’s not just him opening his mouth.

At Mitchie, cadets wear signs of fatigue during matches and are freed from reception by senior officers. To reduce the risk and maintain the social distance, cadets will be strategically placed among Mici’s 38,000 seats this season. The cadets are in the company, each company has its own department. Captain Jack Chronister showed up on the west side of the stand, where he was sitting with a straw cowboy hat and tired, the east side of the normal corps house, which is empty.

Fault! The file name is not specified. The stands in the Mici Stadium Concession, which are served by cadets, are relatively quiet. Sarah Naomi Levkovich for ESPN

Normally we sit there, Christopher said. It’s much worse. We’re surfing in the crowd. We insisted with the commander. We usually have beach balls. It’s a little weirder.

On the field the Black Knights do what good soldiers do in this atypical season: adapt to the circumstances. The army (6-1) accepted the bid for the Independence Cup after a 49-3 loss to Mercer, who became the third opponent of the team in four weeks – a fact for which neither army sports director Mike Buddy nor head coach Jeff Monken will apologize. The complexity of planning 12 games in the light of a pandemic would have overwhelmed the Pentagon’s most astute planner. The BYU game has been cancelled and the Air Force game scheduled for last Saturday did not take place. The Academy couldn’t handle it.

You should be lucky, Buddy. We have to avoid catching the wrong person [COWID-19] at the wrong time, because we’re all in a position where a positive moment would spread among us fairly quickly. … You can minimize those possibilities, but you will.

Moncken is proud of his team’s play on the field, but just as proud of the way they played off the field. The Black Knights came back on the 1st. June at their post. Neither she nor any of the employees tested positive for VIDOC-19. Monken thinks the forced unit played to his team’s advantage.

Fault! The file name is not specified. Rookie ‘s 53 yard touchdown by Tyrell Robinson brought the Black Knights to 49th and 3rd place. From October until victory over Mercer. Sarah Naomi Levkovich for ESPN

Since George Floyd’s death, we, like everyone else, have experienced a lot, especially the tensions in our country and, frankly, here, Monken said. We can all feel it. It brought us together in a way that allowed us to grow as a team where, had they had all that freedom, we probably wouldn’t have achieved so much.

There are two prizes for all the sacrifices the Corps has made this season. First of all, the pandemic in Mici will be played by the navy for the first time since the 1943 military season. Second, the Black Knights thrive in the holiday season.

2020 is the year of adaptability, Buddy said. I remember someone writing for the season, actually in June: The most disciplined team is the one that will have the most success.

They know how to discipline themselves at West Point. They don’t need fans in the stands for that.

Fault! The file name is not specified. One of the many types of waterfalls at West Point, one of the most picturesque places in university football. Sarah Naomi Levkovich for ESPN

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