Monday, May 19, 2008



The Gazette's Air Force Sports Blog has moved. It now can be found at

The new address is attached to the Gazette's web site, which is better because now the Powers That Be can keep track of how much traffic it gets.

Every post I've made to the blog - along with all the corresponding comments from readers - has been moved over to the new address. And, don't worry, the BlogDog will move along with the site.

So, once again, please bookmark this site: And visit often, as it is updated frequently (and, come August and the start of football, it will be updated almost daily).


Jake Schaller

Friday, May 16, 2008

First Look: Wyoming

I started my blog’s “First Look” series last week with a quick peek at New Mexico (scroll down to take a look at the Lobos).

I’m going to do these periodically throughout the offseason because there never should be a time when we’re not talking football. (Note: If my father is reading this, I know that’s a double-negative, but I thought it was more fun to write than “we always should be talking football”).

Anyway, without further ado, here’s a look at the Cowboys:

2007 Record: 5-7, 2-6
Off/Def Starters Back: 8/7
Last Year vs. AF: Air Force 20, Wyoming 12
This Year vs. AF: Sept. 6 at Wyoming

Roster Report: The Cowboys bring back eight offensive starters from their 2007 squad, including running back Devin Moore (965 yards, five TDs). Backup running back Wynel Seldon (554 yards, eight TDs) also is back along with – get this – all five starting offensive linemen from 2007: Center Tim Bond (6-foot-4, 300 pounds), guards Russ Arnold (6-4, 290) and Sam Sterner (6-4, 297) and tackles Kyle Howard (6-7, 312) and Ryan Otterson (6-5, 289). Expect Wyoming to make more of a commitment to the run.

The defense will be tough up front as well with three starters back – tackle John Fletcher (6-6, 280), nose guard Fred Givens (6-0, 301) and end Mitch Unrein (6-4, 270). Also back is senior inside linebacker Ward Dobbs, who led Wyoming and ranked seventh in the Mountain West Conference in 2007 with 8.2 tackles per game.

The big question for the Cowboys is who will play quarterback. Last year’s starter, Karsten Sween, is back, but he struggled at times in 2007 and he did not lock down the starting role in spring practices. The Cowboys also are struggling to find a replacement for kicker/punter Billy Vinnedge.

Fast Fact: Wyoming, which lost 12 fumbles and threw 19 interceptions in 2007, ranked last in the MWC and 112th in the NCAA in turnover margin (minus-1.0 per game). The Cowboys committed five turnovers in last season’s loss to Air Force including a fumble that Bobby Giannini returned 85 yards for a game-changing touchdown. Wyoming has to improve in this area if it wants to compete for the MWC crown.

What Caught My Eye: This is Year Six of the Joe Glenn Era. And I think that ol’ Cowboy Joe officially has to be considered on the hot seat.

Since the 2004 season when Wyoming beat UCLA in the Las Vegas Bowl, the Cowboys have struggled, going 15-20, including 9-15 in the MWC. And two of the last three seasons have been marked by disastrous collapses. In 2005 the Cowboys started 4-1 before losing six straight. Wyoming started 4-1 last season as well, but then lost six of its final seven, including a 50-0 loss to Utah (which was accompanied by Middle-Finger-Gate – Glenn giving Kyle Whittingham a one-fingered salute after the Utes kicked an onsides kick with the game well in hand).

So, you combine all the returning talent with recent disappointment and I think it equals this: Glenn has to win now.

Final Thought: If Wyoming can sort out its quarterback situation, it could be a surprise team in the conference. But the Cowboys will be tested with games on the road against BYU, New Mexico, TCU and Tennessee.

Way Early Line vs. AF: Wyoming -6. The Cowboys get Air Force in Laramie in the second week of the season when Air Force’s neophyte team still will be getting its collective feet wet. This game will be a big-time tone-setter for both teams.

More on the Pro Policies

I’ll be a talking about the service academies' pro policies, and specifically Army's Alternative Service Option, on TV tonight. I'll be a guest on College Sports Tonight, a program on CBS College Sports (formerly CSTV). The show will air at 5 (MT) and again at 9.

Tune in and watch why I write for a living instead of working for a TV network.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

DeBerry Foundation 5K Run & Walk Saturday

Don’t forget about a great event for a great cause this weekend.

On Saturday afternoon at 3, the Fisher DeBerry 5K Run and Walk will be held – rain or shine – at America the Beautiful Park. Coach DeBerry will be there along with special guest Rudy Ruettiger – the famous Notre Dame walk-on who inspired the movie Rudy. Coach DeBerry and Rudy will present medals to the top three finishers in each race and age category.

The registration fee for adults is $20 before 6 p.m. Friday and $25 the day of the race. The fee for children and students is $15 before 6 p.m. Friday and $20 the day of the race. Each participant will receive a t-shirt, and all registrants will be eligible to win raffle prizes and get free tickets to a Colorado Springs Sky Sox game. Food from Chick-fil-A will be provided.

The event benefits the Colorado Springs FCA, Santa’s Workshop and Young Lives.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Rabold Update/Pro Policy Update

According to Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, outside linebacker John Rabold will try out with the Denver Broncos on Thursday.

Rabold won’t be participating in a mini-camp, like inside linebacker Drew Fowler did with the Detroit Lions and running back/receiver/returner Chad Hall did with the Atlanta Falcons. But it’s at least a chance to show what he can do. Calhoun said if Rabold impresses the Broncos, he could get invited to a camp.

Here’s a big problem for all Air Force players trying to catch on with NFL teams: With NFL Europe folding, the NFL now allows teams to have only 80 players on their rosters at the start of training camp. There are no additional exemptions. That cut out about eight players on each of the 30 teams and undoubtedly has made teams less likely to invite kids who will have to serve on active duty in the military for two years before getting a chance to play.

Speaking of that two-year policy …

David Chu, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, has sent a letter to the secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force to clarify the Department of Defense policy regarding officers playing professional sports, Air Force Academy sports information director Troy Garnhart said.

The policy, issued last August and implemented on Jan. 1, 2008, states officers must serve two years of active duty before applying for excess leave or early release from active duty to pursue a professional sports career.

But while Air Force and Navy both are following that policy closely, Army players are able to go straight to the NFL as long as they earn a roster spot. Why? In 2005 the Army instituted what it calls its Alternative Service Option Program. It allows graduates who remain on rosters to play professionally and serve as part-time Army recruiters.

Army basically is saying that program overrules the DoD policy.

While I don’t know this for sure, I’m guessing Chu’s letter was sent to try to rein in Army – to encourage strongly that Army follow the DoD policy to the letter like Air Force and Navy.

Army’s policy came under scrutiny after Caleb Campbell, an Army defensive back, was selected in the seventh round of the recent NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. The selection brought tons of publicity to Campbell and Army. And not all of it was positive.

Folks at both Air Force and Navy think the rules should be the same for all three service academies. They think Army’s policy gives it a recruiting advantage over its service academy rivals. And many question how Army could justify it. The DoD policy, after all, is extremely clear: You must serve two years of active duty before you play pro ball. As Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk told The Annapolis Capital, “Army has redefined active duty to include playing professional sports.”

Whether Chu’s letter will cause the Army to alter its policy is uncertain. When I inquired about Army’s policy shortly after the draft, Lt. Col. Jonathan Withington, a press officer for the department of defense, wrote me an e-mail that stated, in part, “it is up to the Military Departments to interpret and apply that policy.”

I guess Army could stick by its interpretation and contend playing professional sports while serving as a part-time recruiter constitutes active duty service.

But even if it does, I don’t think we’ve heard the last of the discussion on this policy.

AJC Hall Article

Nice story on Chad Hall’s tryout with the Atlanta Falcons in the Atlanta Journal Constitution today.

Here’s the link.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

First Look: New Mexico

With spring football in the rearview mirror and the preseason still a few months away, I’m going to throw out some initial observations about Air Force’s 2008 opponents from time to time.

I’m going to go in no particular order and there won’t be a set schedule. I’ll just pass on some thoughts from talking to colleagues and reading stories from other media outlets.

I was a guest on The Mtn.’s Around The Mountain show this week, and one of the teams we discussed was New Mexico. So I’m starting with the Lobos.

2007 Record:
Off/Def Starters Back: 6/6
Last Year vs. AF: New Mexico 34, Air Force 31
This Year vs. AF: Oct. 23 (Thursday) at Air Force

Roster Report: The Lobos lost a pair of first-team All-Mountain West Conference receivers to graduation – Marcus Smith and Travis Brown. They combined to catch 167 passes for 2,156 yards and 10 touchdowns. But the Lobos, while inexperienced overall, have starters back at key positions. Junior-to-be Donavan Porterie returns at quarterback after passing for 3,006 yards and 15 touchdowns last year; Senior-to-be Rodney Ferguson, coming off back-to-back first-team all-league and 1,000-yard campaigns, returns as running back; And the Lobos have both starting corners back from their 2007 squad.

Fast Fact: New Mexico has won at least six games in each of the last seven seasons and gone to five bowl games in that stretch. But it hasn’t finished better than second in conference play during that time, and last season’s nine victories were its most in one season since Rocky Long took over as head coach before the 1998 campaign.

What Caught My Eye: The Lobos’ schedule. Yikes. New Mexico has arguably the toughest slate of any Mountain West Conference team this season, especially early.

The Lobos are the only team in the conference without a bye week (Air Force had that distinction last season) and the only team other than UNLV that will not play a Division I-AA squad.

(Note: in this blog, I heretofore am refusing to use the term “Football Championship Subdivision” – the new moniker for Division I-AA. Every time I write “Football Championship Subdivision” in the paper I have to write “Football Championship Subdivision – formerly Division I-AA,” because most people don’t know what the heck the “Football Championship Subdivision” is. So consider this my protest to this stupid name change. Back to the Lobos’ schedule.)

The Lobos open with conference heavyweight TCU on Aug. 30, then check out their September: Home games against Texas A&M and Arizona, followed by road games at Tulsa (which went 10-4 and beat BYU last season) and at in-state rival New Mexico State.

Greg Archuleta, the Albuquerque Journal’s excellent New Mexico football beat writer called the Lobos’ nonconference slate “one of the toughest” in Long’s 11 seasons.

Final Thought: New Mexico probably can extend its streak of seasons with at least six wins, but it will be tough, considering the schedule.

Jake's Way Early Line vs. AF: New Mexico -2.5.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Broekhuis Picks AFA Prep

Colorado Springs Christian School senior center Taylor Broekhuis, The Gazette’s 2007-08 Small Schools Boys Basketball Player of the Year, has committed to play at Air Force Academy’s prep school.

The 6-foot-9 Broekhuis averaged 17.3 points, 11.5 rebounds and 4.9 blocks per game in leading the Lions to the 2008 3A state championship game. He chose the academy prep school over Colorado State, Denver and Northern Colorado.

“For me it was pretty much the fact that they had recruited me for a long time, almost a year and a half, and I felt really comfortable with the coaching staff,” said Broekhuis, who added that assistant Rob Pryor played a major role in his recruitment. “The facilities there are phenomenal, and it was kind of a gut feeling that I wanted to go there.”

Broekhuis said coaches projected him as a forward or post in the Air Force offense. He fits well in the offense because he is mobile and can handle the ball.

Broekhuis said the only reason he did not commit earlier was because he was wary of the military commitment at the academy.

“That’s what held up the decision for so long,” he said. “But I think I can handle it.”

Broekhuis said his grandfather was in the Air Force and “he was kind of pushing for Air Force the whole time.”

Friday, May 2, 2008

Fowler, Hall Invited to Camps

Senior inside linebacker Drew Fowler and senior running back/receiver/returner Chad Hall have been invited to try out with NFL teams, Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said Friday.

Fowler is in Detroit for a tryout with the Lions this weekend, while Hall will participate in a tryout with his hometown Atlanta Falcons next weekend. Neither player has signed a free agent contract. Both simply are trying out with those teams.

Fowler will take part in the Lions’ rookie camp. According to a story that appeared in The Grand Rapids Press earlier this week, the camp will include Detroit’s nine drafted rookies – including Army defensive back Caleb Campbell – along with “about 10 undrafted free agents and about 15 or 20 tryout players.”

The article went on to say that the the Lions' draft picks and their undrafted free agents “likely” would be back for training camp, but that the tryout players, like Fowler, “will have to show enough to earn an invitation back.”

Thursday, May 1, 2008

More Congressional Bowl Thoughts

On Wednesday, the NCAA licensed the Congressional Bowl, which, according to officials, wants to invite a service academy team every year – a rotation of Navy, Army and Air Force.

Navy is locked in for ’08 (if it wins six games and, thus, becomes bowl eligible), and Army has signed on for ’09.

Bowl officials want Air Force in ’10. Can it happen?

It will be complicated, as Air Force is affiliated with the Mountain West Conference, while Navy and Army are independent. But it's not out of the realm of possibility as long as the league athletic directors approve a plan.

As explained in the above linked article, Air Force coach Troy Calhoun likes the idea of securing direct tie-ins with bowl games like Navy has had in recent years (for instance with the 2007 Poinsettia Bowl and the 2008 Congressional Bowl).

Calhoun wants the academy to be aggressive in its pursuit of such partnerships because he thinks the opportunity to play in the postseason is an enormous benefit to the program. It provides additional practice days and creates publicity for and excitement within the program.

A bowl in D.C. is especially intriguing because of the amount of graduates living in the area, not to mention the proximity of several Air Force bases and the Pentagon.

Moreover, he worries that Air Force could be left out of the postseason even if it becomes bowl eligible. Remember, even as late as early November in 2007, when the Falcons were 6-3 and technically bowl eligible, there were worries that they wouldn’t make it to a postseason game.

BYU seemed all but locked into the Las Vegas Bowl (even if Air Force had tied the Cougars for the league title – still a possibility at that point – the widespread belief was that the LV Bowl would select BYU). The Poinsettia Bowl was out because Navy was well on its way to securing the aforementioned automatic bid and the bowl wouldn’t host a re-match (Navy and Air Force played earlier in the year). That left the New Mexico Bowl and the Armed Forces Bowl for what looked to be three bowl eligible teams – Air Force, New Mexico and TCU.

Well, everything worked out, as Air Force accepted a bid to the Armed Forces Bowl and TCU snuck into the Texas Bowl because the Big 12, with which the Texas Bowl had an affiliation, sent two teams to the BCS and thus did not have a bowl eligible team for the Texas Bowl.

But what if the Big 12 did have a team? Then one of the bowl eligible MWC teams would have been left out, as happened to Wyoming in 2006 – the Cowboys were bowl eligible at 6-6 and did not go bowling. In 2007 there were 32 bowl games for 71 bowl eligible teams.

Calhoun believes at least five of the MWC’s nine teams typically will become bowl eligible each year. And the MWC has just four bowl tie-ins. (They might have had five, but on Wednesday the proposed Rocky Mountain Bowl, which would have been held in Salt Lake City and pitted a MWC team against a team from the Western Athletic Conference, was denied a license). That makes a direct tie-in with the Congressional Bowl a good solution, he said.

“First and foremost, it’s another bowl opportunity,” Calhoun said. “We’re always going to have five (teams) eligible, some years six. So what (a partnership with the Congressional Bowl) does now is maybe it frees up a year where if a team is 6-6, they go to a bowl.”

Calhoun knows why the conference is hesitant: Let’s say Air Force makes a deal with the Congressional Bowl in 2010 that says if the Falcons are bowl eligible, they get an automatic bid to the bowl. What happens if the Falcons go 10-2 that year and win or tie for the conference title? The league would want them in one of its own bowl games.

But Calhoun is quick to remind folks that last year, though Air Force finished second in the league, it could not be chosen by the Poinsettia Bowl, which has second pick of MWC teams, because of the deal with Navy.

So what’s the solution? According to Javan Hedlund, the associate commissioner for communications at the MWC, a potential Air Force tie-in with the Congressional Bowl would have to be approved by all the conference ADs and the league’s bowl partners.

Here’s my plan: Let Air Force arrange its own tie-in with the Congressional Bowl every three years. It will stipulate that Air Force will go to the Congressional Bowl if it becomes bowl eligible unless A) the Falcons win the league title, in which case the Las Vegas Bowl can take them, or B) the Falcons are one of only four bowl-eligible MWC teams and they need to fill a spot in one of the MWC’s four bowls.

How does that not make sense for everyone? It gives the league a chance to keep the Falcons if they win the MWC championship and guarantees the league will fill its four bowl slots. But it also gives the Falcons a chance to play a game that embraces service academies (like the Armed Forces Bowl) in an area that has plenty of built-in graduates and fans.

Air Force was approached by the bowl game but referred the game to the MWC, as its first obligation is the league. But Calhoun’s right. This is a no-brainer.

The academy and the league need to make it happen.