Army Athletics corrupts West Point. BG Lance Betros, in his thorough & recommended book Carved from Granite, goes into great detail about the history of intercollegiate athletics at USMA and its corrosive effects on the program. LTC Heffington noted that athletes were being admitted with terrible scores, which we confirmed. We have found yet another modern example of this corrosion to share.
The West Point honor system identifies quibbling as an honor code violation described as “evasive statements, or the use of technicalities to conceal guilt.”
Let’s explore how this applies to the recently-rebranded Army West Point Athletics program.
The Academies–not just West Point, but let us focus on our alma mater–have legally separated their athletic entities from the Academies [LINK]. You may be surprised to learn–we were–that, as of 2016, the Army West Point Athletic Association is a distinct legal 501(c)(3) entity from the United States Military Academy. A 501c3 organization is tax-exempt and provides tax deductions to donors.
These entities do not have to share information that would otherwise be available as part of public records laws, such as contracts. They do not have to share financials, or arrangements with their public counterparts. They do not have to maintain the reporting that the Academies do. There is no transparency. As our dad used to say, where lack of transparency meets dollars, there is fire (he did not actually say this, but you get the gist).
Why would the Academies do this? Perhaps there are great benefits to it and readers can point us to them. But we did not see good reasons to do this from the public’s or the military’s point of view, which are the two main customers of the Academy.
What the AWPAA Does
In the case of the “Army West Point Athletic Association” (AWPAA), we can’t find a website for the organization itself. There is the “official athletics website.” But this is different from many non-profits which have websites with information about the organization’s mission, its members/directors, sometimes annual reports, etc. We could not find that information for AWPAA. Perhaps a reader is better with search than we are and can help out. This itself is odd and raises flags.
But we did find that the association:
- sells tickets
- manages athletic recruiting (note the Office of Athletics Compliance is addressed to AWPAA)
- provide funds to West Point (proper) athletics
- “general support” of the athletic program
We know very little about the financials of this organization. Perhaps a FOIA audit of Academy cash flows would reveal the amount of money flowing from athletics. In the meantime we rely on a 2017 Form 990:
This document shows a couple interesting things. First we see the increase in revenues from $500k in year 1 to $9.7M in year 2 (2017). What are contributions and grants to the athletic institution? What are other revenues? We don’t know. Somewhere in there is presumably ticket sales and merchandise, but we don’t know.
Under expenses we see Salaries / compensation are at $2.6M. Surely one or more coaches are in there, but we don’t know who.
Cash flows–or at least “revenue less expenses” nets $4.6M for current year.
And we see that assets went from $.6M to $12M in one year. Wow!
And there are no more forms available for recent years. Why not?
The upshot of all this is that we have an entity which is unaccountable to the public and unreportable in charge of a lot of money, of which some or all is used by the Academy itself.
After some diligent hunting, a helpful reader found auditor statements here https://facdissem.census.gov/ Not exactly the most intuitive place to find disclosures, but we’ll take it. Thanks! More to follow in a future post.
It is unclear why the Academy would create an unaccountable, non-transparent spin-off to manage athletics and related funds. Other than to hide things or work around normal processes, of course. It looks really bad. In fact, it looks like “an evasive technicality to conceal guilt” – in this case, forming a shell entity to conceal the corrupting influence of money on the institution, which West Point doesn’t want on its books.
In short, AWPAA’s existence creates incentives to seek dollars instead of selecting and training the best professional corps. And when we recall the lowered standards for high-visibility athletes at West Point, it’s hard to avoid concluding that the love of money vis-a-vis athletics is in fact driving a lower-quality Corps of Cadets.
This is fundamentally at odds with the mission of West Point. Even MacArthur in his famous quote was focused “upon other fields, on other days, [bearing] the fruits of victory”–not selling out those victories for ticket sales and donations now. And since AWPAA does all this as a separate entity, it allows generals to claim that the Academy itself is still pursuing its mission to:
“to educate, train, and inspire the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character committed to the values of Duty, Honor, Country and prepared for a career of professional excellence and service to the Nation as an officer in the United States Army.”
This, dear readers, is quibbling.