There was a lot of excited and happy officers, cadets and soldiers at West Point this week as Army announced it had accepted a bid to play in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl in Dallas, Texas on December 30.
This is the first bowl game for Army since the 1996 Independence Bowl Game, a three point loss to Auburn and only the fifth in West Point's long football history that dates back to 1890.
The game will be played at Gerald J. Ford Stadium on the attractive campus of Southern Methodist University. This game is normally played in Fort Worth but renovations being performed at Amon G. Carter Stadium forced the move east to SMU's stadium. Playing in Texas will provide attendance opportunities for soldiers from the large Army bases in Texas such as Fort Hood, Fort Bliss, and Fort Sam Houston and the home of the Field Artillery just 200 miles away at Ft. Sill in Oklahoma.
With 14 of the Black Knights coming from Texas, this will be a chance for many on the roster to play a bowl game in their native area and for the program to receive recognition in a key football recruiting area of the country.
Col. Sam Johnson, now serving as West Point Interim athletic director, commented at the Army-Navy Game Press Conference on Wednesday about his team playing in a bowl game this year:
"It brings us back to our roots, we start to feel the way we should about Army football, we start to feel we are living up to the Long Gray Line, filling the footsteps of those who came before us. The history of Army football is so rich in tradition that we feel guilty, embarrassed and disappointed when we do not win. Getting to a bowl game puts us back where we think we should be, that is upholding a winning tradition of Army football."
Ft. Hood based Col. John T. Thomson, a West Point graduate from the class of 1986 and former Army football player, also commented on the announcement:
"That was tremendous news, kind of expected since the last victory over Kent State, I am planning to attend that Bowl game." Col. Thomson played in two of Army's bowl victories; the 1984 Cherry Bowl a 10-6 win over Michigan State and the 1985 Peach Bowl a 31-29 victory over Illinois.
Army has a worldwide following from the military, and the build-up to next week's Army-Navy Game and the Bowl Game three weeks later provides a lot of excitement and fun for those who follow the team from Army assignments around the world.
The author conducts the West Point Football Report by SAL Radio every Tuesday at 5:30 PM EST broadcast on New Rochelle NY based WVOX 1460 AM and nationally on WVOX.com. Past interviews can be heard on www.legionpost50ny.com. Reach Ken on firstname.lastname@example.org.