The black cloud that's been hanging over the Severn lifted yesterday.
The Navy basketball team won the Patriot League title, providing a diversion for the brigade of midshipmen.
"A lot of bad things have happened," said Jim Hamilton, a second-year guard from Erie, Pa., who had 11 points off the bench in the 78-76 victory over Colgate that earned Navy an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. "One thing we all can do is boost morale, and this should help."
The past year has been traumatic for the academy.
* There were 133 seniors, including several prominent athletes, implicated in a cheating scandal involving an electrical engineering exam taken in fall 1992. The matter has yet to be resolved.
* Last fall, two former record-setting Navy athletes, quarterback Alton Grizzard and distance runner Kerryn O'Neill, were murdered by another academy graduate, who then committed suicide.
* A week later, after the Navy football team missed a short field goal that would have beaten Army, three members of the brigade returning to Annapolis from the game in New Jersey died in an auto accident.
"We've all had some trying times, and this is a picker-upper," athletic director Jack Lengyel said. "My only disappointment is that the midshipmen weren't on the yard. We had the lacrosse team and the crew team in and some restrictees and others who drove back for the game, but I would have liked to see this place if the brigade wasn't on break."
Alumni Hall had a record crowd of 4,360. Had the entire brigade been in Annapolis, it probably would have been near its capacity of 5,710 -- without mandatory attendance, Lengyel said.
"Only Army does that," Lengyel said, getting in a dig at Navy's rival, which required attendance for the Army-Navy game at West Point last week, when the Mids clinched first place in the Patriot League regular season. "We wouldn't have had to do that. They [the brigade] would have come on their own."
The title reinforced Lengyel's stance that the Patriot League is the right place for Navy. When the Mids had David Robinson, they were atop the Colonial Athletic Association, but they finished near the bottom of the standings in their final three seasons there.
The CAA's acceptance of freshmen who don't meet NCAA eligibility standards was one reason Navy moved to the less-demanding Patriot League in 1991. The Mids sought out institutions with similar academic philosophies, but even in the Patriot, they were 1-13 two years ago.
"This is one of the more remarkable stories I've ever been associated with," DeVoe said.