Former superintendent might return to academy

March 25, 1994|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Sun Staff Writer

Adm. Charles R. Larson, commander in chief of U.S. Pacific forces, has emerged as the leading candidate to become superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, congressional sources said yesterday.

Eight candidates -- many of them three- and four-star admirals -- have been interviewed for the academy job in the past month by Navy Secretary John Dalton and other Navy officials.

"If you were a betting man, bet on Chuck Larson," said a congressional source familiar with the search. "I think it's a very strong possibility."

Admiral Larson, 57, was superintendent of the academy from 1983 to 1986 and is expected to complete his three-year tour of duty in the Pacific in May. A native of Omaha, Neb., he graduated from the academy in 1958.

His name emerged recently as a possible successor to Admiral Frank B. Kelso II, the chief of naval operations. That job eventually went to Adm. Jeremy Boorda.

Admiral Larson could not be reached for comment last night at his headquarters in Hawaii. His spokesman, Air Force Col. George Titus, said he had no information on the Naval Academy post.

The current superintendent, Rear Adm. Thomas C. Lynch, is expected to end his three-year tour this summer.

"We've not been informed who the replacement might be or when," said Lt. Cmdr. Paul J. Weishaupt, an academy spokesman.

Admiral Lynch has been under fire from midshipmen, faculty members, alumni and Congress over his handling of a cheating scandal that grew to implicate 133 senior midshipmen. It was the largest cheating scandal in the academy's history.

A panel of officers is expected to report soon on how many of those midshipmen will be recommended for expulsion.

Critics say Admiral Lynch did not move quickly enough to investigate the theft and distribution of an electrical engineering exam taken in December 1992 by 663 midshipmen.

Vice Adm. David M. Bennett, the Navy's inspector general, told a Senate panel last month that the academy did not seem interested in getting to the bottom of the scandal.

Admiral Lynch conceded "failure" in not pursuing the scandal and pledged to redouble efforts in connection with the honor concept, which states that midshipmen are people of integrity ,, and do not "lie, cheat or steal."

Concerned by the effects of the scandal, Navy officials are searching for a respected, senior officer to help restore the school's reputation.

The selection of Admiral Larson would be unprecedented for the Navy. He is a four-star admiral, and the superintendent traditionally has been a two-star admiral.

"They're looking for a guy who's been around a long time, knows the academic world," one source said.

Adm. Leon "Bud" Edney, a former academy commandant of midshipmen, said he was unaware that Admiral Larson might return to the academy but that the situation was similar to the aftermath of a major cheating scandal at the U.S. Military Academy in 1974, when Army officials called on a senior general to return and head the academy.

"I think he's one of our most distinguished officers," Admiral Edney said of Admiral Larson. "I think he's high on ethics and integrity."

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