Controversy is not new at the academy

By DAN WOLKEN THE GAZETTE Updated: October 29, 2005 at 12:00 am • Published: October 29, 2005
At most college football programs, this week’s hubbub over coach Fisher DeBerry’s comments on minority recruiting might be reason for concern heading into a crucial game. But for Air Force, dealing with distraction has become rather routine. “You get used to it,” fullback Jacobe Kendrick said. “You have to remember where you are. Everything, and everything you do basically just gets magnified a little bit.” The Falcons enter today’s game against BYU in Provo, Utah, needing a victory to keep hopes of a winning season alive. A loss would mean Air Force (3-5) clinches a second consecutive losing season for the first time in 22 years under DeBerry. But this week, the conversation about DeBerry has cen- tered on comments Tuesday that Air Force needed to recruit more black players because “Afro-American kids can run very, very well.” After the comments caused a stir in the national media, DeBerry apologized Wednesday and received an official reprimand from athletic director Hans Mueh and a verbal reprimand from new academy superintendent Lt. Gen. John Regni. This is far from the first time, though, that Air Force players have been asked to deal with issues outside of football. In the past few years, all academy cadets have lived under the shadow of scandals regarding sexual assault and religious intolerance on campus. The latter involved the football team. Last season DeBerry was instructed to remove a banner from the locker room that promoted Christianity. “I think the national media overplays what it’s like at the academy,” cornerback Chris Sutton said. “I didn’t know there was religious intolerance going on until I hear other people calling me about it, and that’s how I found out about the statement coach DeBerry made, other people calling me. “It always has a little distraction to it because everybody talks about it. You hear about it in the classrooms up there. If it made the hill, it’s big news.” Kendrick said he thought this week’s events might benefit the team as it rallies around De-Berry. “It might have helped us come together a little bit more,” he said. “The game’s going to be on TV, and with all the things that happened, we know a lot of people are going to be watching now.” The Falcons couldn’t help but notice the increased number of reporters and television cameras covering Wednesday practice. And that might not bode well for the Falcons, who will be playing in a stadium where DeBerry’s teams are 1-7 all-time. “We’re worried about wins and losses,” senior center Jon Wilson said. “We’re not worried about what the papers or media says. It doesn’t affect us, and we’re kind of protected here. We’ll go in the locker room, we’ll laugh and joke about what’s been said during the day, but we come out to practice the same and we’re just trying to get W’s. We’re ready to go play a game.” CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0258 or TODAY Air Force (3-5, 2-4 MWC) at BYU (3-4, 2-2), 1 p.m., Adelphia Ch. 6, 740 AM
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