GEORGE CHAUMP, in his first year as football coach at Navy, appears to be doing what many thought impossible at the academy: winning. The easier schedule notwithstanding, Chaump's Middies have a 5-5 record and will finish with Navy's first winning season in eight years if they beat Army Saturday in Philadelphia.
"We're not a good football team yet," Chaump was saying in Annapolis yesterday, "but we're respectable. I think we could go against almost any team in the country right now and not be embarrassed."
What Chaump likes best about this team is the way it "stuck with it after facing adversity. A team either gets better or worse after a traumatic loss. We got better. That's the mark of character."
What I like about Navy under Chaump is its proclivity for winning the close ones (23-21 over Villanova; 17-13 over Akron; 14-10 over Toledo; 31-27 over Delaware).
* When former William & Mary star ballcarrier Jack Cloud went in the College Football Hall of Fame Tuesday night in New York, a man ran clear across the Waldorf-Astoria banquet hall to congratulate him. It was George Steinbrenner.
"You were my hero when I was a kid," the former Yankees owner told Cloud, who went on to play five years in the NFL before injuries ended his career. Cloud still can't figure out where Steinbrenner, a Williams College man, could have seen him play.
Steinbrenner is involved in a memorable incident at Navy. Five years ago Navy's athletic director, Bo Coppedge, phoned Steinbrenner and asked him if he believed in free speech. "I certainly do," George insisted. "Good," said Coppedge. "Then you're giving one at our Navy football team banquet." It was one of the best speeches ever heard at Navy.
* In a room full of Hall of Famers and football notables, no one impressed Cloud (now a Navy broadcaster with Ted Patterson) more than ex-Penn State linebacker Jack Ham, who was enshrined along with Cloud. Ham, a 220-pounder then and now, told Cloud how he made the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a Pittsburgh Steeler: "I played behind Mean Joe Greene and L.C. Greenwood. Every team we played put two blockers on them. Nobody ever got to me."
* When ACC commissioner Gene Corrigan said last month that this city could be a site for future Big East-ACC Challenge basketball, it seemed the ex-Baltimorean was simply saying something nice about his old hometown. The facts indicate the Baltimore Arena would, indeed, be a viable site.
Monday night in Richmond there were only 7,702 people in the stands for the Big East-ACC doubleheader. By the time Maryland played (and lost to) Boston College in the nightcap, there were no more than 3,000 there.
Many left the arena after Virginia beat Pitt in the opener in a game that was scheduled early for ESPN. Not only would Maryland vs. any Big East team be played here before more than 3,000, but an ACC-Big East doubleheader also would draw more than 7,702 to the Arena. Corrigan knew what he was talking about.
* The first head coach George Young hired when he became general manager of the New York Giants was ex-Colts receiver Ray Perkins. Perkins went 10-22 his first two seasons and the New York media was beating up on him. Young still believed in his coach, but did the Mara family, which owns the Giants? I asked Young at the time if they could fire Perkins. His answer reflected the fact that Young is the only executive in sports with two master's degrees in history.
"They fired the Duke of Wellington," he said. "They fired Churchill. Of course they can fire Ray Perkins." Perkins didn't get fired by the Giants. He quit there to become coach at Alabama. But this week he joined the company of Sir Winston and The Duke. He was fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.