A cheating scandal that has harmed the reputation of the U.S. Naval Academy now appears to be threatening the career of its superintendent, Rear Adm. Thomas C. Lynch.
The two-star admiral -- who admitted "failure" in not aggressively pursuing the largest scandal in academy history -- is now being offered two-star assignments rather than the three-star promotion he had hoped to achieve, Navy and Pentagon sources said.
Admiral Lynch, 52, a 1964 academy graduate and former Navy football captain, was yearning for a fleet command and is now deciding whether to accept a deputy post or retire from the Navy, sources said.
Adm. Jeremy Boorda, selected as the next chief of naval operations, reportedly has urged Admiral Lynch to remain in the service, sources said.
"With respect to his future plans, Admiral Lynch does not care to discuss them at this time," said Lt. Cmdr. Paul J. Weishaupt, an academy spokesman, adding that the superintendent is focused on academy matters and May graduation.
"He's working toward an enhanced honor concept that will be more easily understood and assimilated within each individual who attends the Naval Academy within the coming years," Commander Weishaupt said.
Several Pentagon and congressional sources said a third star for Admiral Lynch would be difficult to get through the Senate Armed Services Committee because several members have been very critical of the admiral's leadership.
After spending a year or two in a two-star position, he could try again for a third star, those sources said.
A lateral move rather than a promotion would be an ironic twist for Admiral Lynch, a rising star in the Navy when he arrived at the academy in June 1991. He was viewed as a "Mr. Fix-It" after a scandal involving sophomore Midshipman Gwen Dreyer.
Ms. Dreyer was handcuffed to a urinal and taunted by male classmates, an incident that also turned the national spotlight on the academy, led to a national debate about sexual harassment in the military and stalled the career of the academy superintendent at the time, Rear Adm. Virgil Hill.
Meanwhile, top Navy officials are working on a new leadership team for the academy that is expected to include Navy Capt. William T. R. Bogle, 47, commanding officer of the U.S. Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Fla., and Marine Col. Charles Bolden, 46, an astronaut who commanded the space shuttle Discovery in February.
Both officers are 1968 academy graduates.
Captain Bogle has emerged as the top candidate to become the next commandant of midshipmen -- the academy's No. 2 position -- replacing Navy Capt. John B. Padgett III. Neither the captain nor his spokesmen responded to a request for comment yesterday.
Colonel Bolden would serve as the academy's deputy commandant of midshipmen, a position now held by Col. Terrence P. Murray. Reached in Houston, Colonel Bolden said Admiral Lynch asked him about taking the job several months ago. Colonel Bolden said he expressed interest but had received no official word.
The colonel said he would welcome a chance to "instill a sense of pride and responsibility in the midshipmen."
"The naval service has been through a tough year, a couple of tough years with Tailhook," he said.
Admiral Lynch is scheduled to end his normal three-year tour by the end of June and to be replaced by Adm. Charles R. Larson.
A 1958 academy graduate and current commander in chief of Pacific forces, Admiral Larson is a highly respected officer who was tapped by top Pentagon officials to burnish the tarnished institution. He would be the first four-star admiral to lead the academy in its 149-year history.
The U.S. Military Academy made a similar move in 1976 after a cheating scandal that led to the expulsion of 150 cadets. Retired four-star Gen. Andrew Jackson Goodpaster, a former supreme allied commander in Europe, was brought in to lead the academy in its post-scandal era.
At the Naval Academy, 134 senior midshipmen were implicated in a cheating scandal involving a December 1992 final exam for Electrical Engineering 311.
Twenty-nine of those midshipmen have been recommended for expulsion by a panel of five officers headed by Vice Adm. Richard C. Allen, 42 have been recommended for lesser punishment, and 35 have been exonerated. The others involved either resigned, received lesser punishment or were found innocent.
Admiral Lynch told the Senate Armed Services Committee in February that he failed to take decisive action on the scandal, never believing it was widespread. The Navy's inspector general, Vice Adm. David M. Bennett, told the senators that the academy leadership seemed more intent on ending the investigation than on getting to the bottom of the scandal.
The Navy IG's report also said there was a "perception" among midshipmen that Admiral Lynch, once a center for legendary Navy quarterback Roger Staubach, tried to shield the football team from the investigation.