The admiral who was in charge of the Naval Academy during the largest cheating scandal in the school's history will retire in November, without a promotion or the command of a fleet.
"I think ever since I was a midshipman at the Naval Academy I wanted a fleet," Rear Adm. Thomas C. Lynch said yesterday during an interview in his Pentagon office. "But we only have a few of them and I guess it just wasn't meant to be."
A promotion to vice admiral would have been difficult to get through the Senate Armed Services Committee because several members sharply criticized the admiral during the 1992 scandal in which 24 midshipmen were expelled and 88 others punished for lying or cheating. The Navy inspector general concluded the academy's hierarchy was not intent on getting to the bottom of the scandal. One senator said the school "botched" the probe and Admiral Lynch admitted "failure" for not aggressively pursuing the investigation.
"Although it is not for me to say what the Navy had planned for me, the [scandal] certainly didn't help my career," Admiral Lynch said. "If that had not happened, I most likely would have gone to a three-star position from there. I don't think that would have been outside the realm of possibilities."
But the 53-year-old admiral says he is not bitter. He calls his his days as superintendent some of the most personally satisfying in his 35-year career. When Admiral Lynch arrived at the academy in June 1991, he was viewed as a "Mr. Fix-It" after a scandal involving a female midshipman who had been handcuffed to a urinal and jeered by male classmates. That incident derailed the career of the academy superintendent at the time, Rear Adm. Virgil Hill, who also was offered a lateral move and later retired.
After implementing dozens of recommendations from Navy officials that seemingly solved that problem, the cheating scandal came as a surprise, the admiral said.
"It was not a pleasant experience," Admiral Lynch said. "It was surprising and disappointing. At the time, it was surprising that a number of midshipmen actually bought and distributed the exam and others who may have known or heard about it did not come forward."
But Admiral Lynch, who holds the newly created position of director of navy staffing, prefers to remember the high points of his career as he prepares to start a second career in the private sector.
"I would like to have another career and if I am going to have another career in another field, now is the time for me to do it," he said. "There is a wide range of possibilities out there in both the profit and nonprofit sectors."