Chaump in dual role for Navy

December 02, 1993|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

When Naval Academy officials went against standard operating procedures by rehiring George Chaump before the end of the season, it served the dual purpose of lending continuity to the football program while also serving as a motivational weapon for the Midshipmen in their traditional battle with Army on Saturday.

Only last week at a pre-game news conference at Giants Stadium, athletic director Jack Lengyel said Chaump's future would be weighed by the Athletic Board of Control after the Army game. But Lengyel said yesterday that there was no need to wait.

"It was a statement by the academy that we want continuity in our coaching staff and a show of confidence in George Chaump that he can continue our upward mobility. I'm sure there are a number of people who sought changes, but I'd rather err on the side of continuity."

Neither Lengyel nor Chaump would reveal the length of his new contract, believed to be at least two years. Chaump, 57, has all but completed his original four-year deal, posting an 11-32 record, including a 4-6 mark this season.

But it was clear that the decision had much to do with the Army game and a chance to clinch the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy, symbolic of service football supremacy.

"You want to have your coaches and players focusing on Army rather than having the coach worrying about a contract," said Lengyel.

Said Chaump, who preferred talking strictly football: "We all know that distractions usually have a detrimental effect. A coach's personality is passed on to his players. But having a new contract is a big relief."

Even the Navy seniors, who will bid Chaump goodbye after the Army game, felt strongly that retaining Chaump was the right decision.

"As a team, we're happy he was rehired," said co-captain and all-purpose back Jason Van Matre. "A lot of the players were concerned about it. Now we can put that behind us and really focus on beating Army."

Added fullback Brad Stramanak, "We made a lot of errors in our last two games against Vanderbilt [41-7 loss] and Southern Methodist [42-13 loss].

"But they were players' errors, not coaching errors. Plus, we had a new offensive coordinator [Greg Briner]. It takes time for these things to work out."

Lengyel said the Board of Control thought Chaump met all the criteria in evaluating a head coach.

"Is he a man of integrity? Does he communicate well with his players? Is he a good strategist? Does he conduct good practices? I think the answer was affirmative to all these questions," said Lengyel.

Navy has not enjoyed a winning season since Gary Tranquill finished 6-5 in 1982. Tranquill lasted until 1987 when he was replaced by Elliot Uzelac, who was fired after going 8-25 in three seasons.

But despite the obstacles posed by academic requirements and a new six-year service commitment, Lengyel believes it is possible to succeed in an academy environment.

"We understand college football has been raised to a higher level, with a lot of blue-chip athletes now eyeing a future in the NFL," he said.

"For us to succeed, it requires some modifications in our scheduling and really beating the bushes in our recruiting," he said.

"We're still a leadership institution and we want to stress the importance of winning. But not winning at all costs. For us, the bottom line is winning more than we lose."

Even with his new contract, Chaump understands the importance of beating Army, with whom he stands 1-2, losing last year's game, 25-24, on a field goal in the final 12 seconds.

"It's always our biggest game," he said. "I've spent four years with my seniors and shared all their emotions. I want them to go out happy, to leave here with a smile."

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