The folks at Coast Guard all need to be in the same boat

New London – It was that sage known as Yogi Berra who once said famously, “a nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.”

They know this intimately at Coast Guard Academy, where the squeeze of the fiscal year’s conclusion (at the end of September) has caused some consternation within athletics.

An effort to save money prohibited the football program, opening its season last Saturday at the University of New England in Maine, from bringing all its players to the hotel Friday night. Starters only. The rest of the team traveled by bus Saturday morning.

Awkward.

This produced some angst, given the news that in a few weeks, Coast Guard will pay Curry College $10,000 to play a football game at the Academy. (It’s $10,000 for a three-game series, two at home.) Paying opponents is standard practice in Division I, where, say, Alcorn State gets a six-figure guarantee to play at Alabama and lose 69-3. But in Division III? A rarity.

The refrain: “How can we have no money to travel but can pay somebody to play here?”

Turns out the money comes from different funds, Coast Guard spokesperson David Milne said Wednesday. Travel comes from the appropriated budget and the money to pay Curry comes from the unappropriated budget.

Former Coast Guard athletic director Tim Fitzpatrick said Wednesday that paying Curry, a contract signed in March of 2017, resulted from a scheduling issue that involved other schools, including Norwich, whose president is Coast Guard graduate Dr. Richard Schneider.

Fitzpatrick said the agreement to pay Curry began in his office, but ultimately needed the approval of several others within the Academy hierarchy.

Other members of the athletic department wondered aloud about the wisdom of sending the men’s basketball team to Alaska for its season opener in November. The travel expenses are far greater than the money ($25,000) ESPN will give Coast Guard. The Bears will play Div. II Alaska-Anchorage live on ESPNU in the Armed Forces Classic.

This is all prologue for what ails Coast Guard — and every other entity in college athletics: Appropriated budgets aren’t going to increase. Alternate revenue streams will be more important than a lung. Translation: Everybody at Coast Guard better start rowing in the same direction. Because that’s the only way this works.

Right now, I see dysfunction. Example: Fitzpatrick, who resigned last December, has yet to be replaced. I’m told that 1) there’s a power play going on as to who gets to appoint his successor; and 2) the committee in place essentially involves nobody from athletics. That’s absurd on its face. It’s also a prism through which to view Coast Guard’s practices. They’re so afraid of looking politically incorrect that they’re allowing too many voices, some of which offer nothing substantive, to be heard during this process.

All together now: Awaken, o military hamlet on the Thames! You have a wonderful opportunity in your midst in a few months. Can you all stop talking long enough to realize it?

Coast Guard athletics will have two separate windows on the ESPN family of networks in November: The football game against Merchant Marine and the aforementioned basketball game in Alaska will both be televised nationally. This is an opportunity provided to very, very few Div. III athletic programs. Ever.

Coast Guard gets two separate infomercials to advertise the best of the Academy and the institution in general. It will expose the place, people and its mission to many prospective cadets who wouldn’t otherwise be able to find New London on a map. It again underscores how athletics is an invaluable resource to selling the Academy across the country.

Every facet of the Coast Guard should capitalize on the publicity, if for no other reason than it has an advantage on all other Div. III schools in the country. In turn, admissions ought to realize the significance of the athletic programs and allow coaches to bring in kids who don’t necessarily do differential equations as a hobby. If sports attracts them, sports should reap the benefits.

Remember: athletics provide the window through which everybody gets to enjoy the sunlight. It was an athlete, former basketball player Jim Estramonte, who brought Coast Guard national acclaim over the summer, commanding U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Munro, which took down a self-propelled semi-submersible vessel carrying 16,000 pounds of cocaine.

I’m not interested in individual opinions here about whether Alaska is a good idea, paying Curry is a good idea or musings about the new athletic director, especially if they don’t know if a ball is blown up or stuffed. I am interested in results. The best path to getting results: shut your mouth, recognize the opportunities in front of you and act on behalf of the Academy, not your agenda.

A nickel really isn’t worth a dime anymore.

It’s not going to get better.

So use your national television windows here in the best ways possible.

Together.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

 

 

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