PHILADELPHIA -- Just weeks before his eighth season at Army last summer, Jim Young did something contrary to the bylaws of the football coaches' fraternity.
This year, he announced, would be his last as a coach, at Army or anywhere else.
He became, very simply, a lame duck coach.
Young and his players will have the world know that this has not been a detriment. Yes, they finished well below their expectations, but they insist that Young's status has served as more of an inspiration than a handicap.
Army will take a 5-5 record into its annual battle with Navy, Dec. 8 at Veterans Stadium, hoping to finish with its sixth winning record in eight years under Young. Navy, also 5-5, needs a victory for its first winning season since 1982.
The Cadets didn't attain their goal of 10 victories and they didn't win the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy to earn a berth in the Liberty Bowl (Air Force did that), but they still can make the season a success by beating Navy.
"Coach Young's status has been a source of motivation for us," said co-captain and linebacker John Robb. "Announcing it before the season started was a good idea. It gave us an extra cause."
At 55, Young decided it was time to get out of coaching. In 17 years as head man at Arizona, Purdue and Army, he has a 119-71-2 record. He is one of 23 coaches in NCAA Division I-A with 100 or more victories.
"It's time," Young said yesterday during a news conference featuring Army and Navy coaches and players. "I've been in coaching 35 years, and in football for 45.
"Your intensity level must be high, and I wasn't sure I could maintain it. I announced it last summer so I'd be totally focused on the season and not have that question in my mind of coaching or not coaching. That allowed me to do a better job."
Army's other co-captain, halfback Mike Mayweather, calls it a "privilege" to play for Young. Mayweather is Army's all-time leading career rusher with 4,212 yards, having eclipsed the record set more than four decades ago by the legendary Glenn Davis.
"It's good that he announced his retirement before the season," Mayweather said. "That way there were fewer distractions and he could put all his energy into the season. He's a very focused individual."
It pleases Young that Army football will continue without missing a beat. Bob Sutton, Young's defensive coordinator for eight years and his associate head coach for two, will be Army's new coach, allowing the staff to plunge into recruiting without interruption.
Young will not fade away. He will work with the academy's psychology program, Performance Enhancement, initiated a few years ago.
"I've told my players that the Navy game isn't important because it's my last game," Young said.
He can say that over and over, but it still will be in the players' minds.
"Coach Young is part of it," Robb said, "but it's larger than that. We want to win for ourselves, too, for the corps, for the guys in Saudi Arabia and for the Army veterans, some of them now grandfathers. We're playing for perhaps most of the country."
Young was seized by the impulse to retire from coaching once before. He relinquished his position at Purdue in 1982 in favor of an administrative job. Sitting in the press box that season, Young came to regret his decision.