Chaump not letting 0-3 record defeat Navy's morale

September 29, 1994|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Sun Staff Writer

The Naval Academy, which plays host to 4-0 Duke on Saturday, has lost eight straight football games, including three this season by an average of 39 points. But, surprisingly, athletic director Jack Lengyel and coach George Chaump believe the Midshipmen are not out of their league.

"It's not easy winning here, and it's taken longer than I like," said Chaump, who has an 11-36 record over four-plus seasons. "But I feel our program is in good shape. To be able to play with the best is a challenge, but it's not impossible."

In recent years, however, Navy has been softening its football schedule to include rivals considered academic equals.

"We recognized the fact that we had to make changes," said Lengyel, in his seventh season at the academy. "We've dropped schools like Syracuse and South Carolina who redshirt a lot of their players. We've replaced them with schools like Rice, Vanderbilt and Tulane who have similar academic standards. We should be capable of competing at that level."

Notre Dame holds a 57-9-1 advantage over Navy in a rivalry that began in 1927, and has won the past 30 meetings. But Lengyel says the Irish will remain a fixture on the schedule.

"That's one of the first things we hear from our recruits," he said. "They all want to have a chance to play against Notre Dame."

For the present, keeping up the team's morale is the prime concern of Chaump and his co-captains, quarterback Jim Kubiak and cornerback Chris Hart. It has become a Herculean task.

"When you've been pounded like we've been, you've got to make sure the players still believe in themselves, and restore their confidence," said Chaump. "But that's what coaching is all about."

Kubiak, who has set 15 school passing records, certainly knows what losing is all about.

"Losing wears on everything you do -- sleeping, eating, and in the classroom," he said. "Everyone wants to know what's wrong -- the media, your classmates, teachers and petty officers. Being co-captain only adds to the pressure. It follows

you wherever you go.

"I try to lead by example. But you've got to guard against trying to do too much yourself. You have to remain in the team concept. Off the field, you don't have a chance to relax and get away from the pressure like you can at most schools. The workload is just too demanding."

Hart prefers to be optimistic.

"I equate our season to boxing," he said. "For our first three weeks, we've been like a fighter trapped in a corner, taking a pounding. But we've still got eight rounds left. The fight's not over. We just go out, play hard and have fun, and not worry about the outcome."

"Unfortunately," Chaump said, "our alums and fans only look at the final score and say, 'What's the matter with you guys?' "

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