Navy victory earns Mids a free day

Academy lets students celebrate off campus after football team's win over Notre Dame

November 05, 2007|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,Sun reporter

First-year midshipmen, or plebes, were allowed off campus yesterday, a break from rules that typically keep them in their dorms or at the library on Sundays, and classes today are canceled - all in recognition of the Naval Academy's thrilling football victory over the University of Notre Dame.

Such reprieves come at a time when the academy has made headlines for cutting back on Mids' free time, canceling pep rallies and scaling back incentives for attending out-of-town football games.

Then again, Saturday's game wasn't just another victory: The Navy football team snapped a 43-game losing streak against the Irish in a triple-overtime shootout in South Bend, Ind., defeating a down-on-its-luck Notre Dame squad and tilting one of the most lopsided rivalries in college sports.

After the game, there were parties and celebrations that lasted into the night. But the feeling yesterday in Annapolis was one of quiet pride and relief. At morning Mass at the academy chapel, the chaplain called the win a "miracle," one midshipman said.

"You see all the guys and girls walking around, and they're obviously enjoying themselves," said David Uffelman, 54, of Sherwood Forest in Anne Arundel County. "You can tell it's lifted the town."

Uffelman was one of the many people milling around downtown Annapolis who were congratulating the midshipmen. He stopped Mike Porcelli and Aaron Rosa, both 18-year-old plebes, for a quick chat about the game as he walked into a City Dock bookstore.

"Every place we've gone into, someone has said something," said Porcelli, of New York state. "We definitely haven't come down from our cloud yet."

Plebes have free time on Saturdays, but must stay on campus on Sunday to study for a weekly quiz. "We owe this beautiful day to the football team," smiled Michael Smithson, 18, of Durham, N.C. He said he found out about the canceled classes from a passer-by.

Ben McNulty, a manager at Middleton Tavern, said downtown businesses have seen a lot fewer midshipmen since new orders were imposed by Vice Admiral Jeffrey L. Fowler to put more emphasis on studying and military preparedness. "We rarely get to see those kids out here, so when we do, it's nice," McNulty said.

Fowler said that the day off was not out of step with military policy - plus, the team and campus deserved it. He said football players "demonstrated honor, courage and commitment."

"Taking a day off after a significant effort and successful completion of a mission is consistent with what commanding officers do with their crew at sea," said Fowler in a telephone interview. "We are preparing our midshipmen for life in the fleet."

Ray Weaver, a spokesman for the city of Annapolis, said officials are planning some type of celebration for this week.

Mayor Ellen O. Moyer was in Seattle and had called "several times to make sure we are doing something," Weaver said. "A parade is possible, certainly a proclamation from the mayor's office."

That's not to say Annapolis was necessarily out of control yesterday. There were no formal events hosted by alumni associations or the academy to mark the victory. Restaurants reported normal traffic and had turned their attention to food and drink specials to attract NFL fans; apparel store managers said academy jerseys weren't flying off the shelves.

The heavy celebrating came Saturday night, when Tecumseh Court was flooded with an estimated 1,000 revelers who threw white streamers and listened to dance music from the campus radio station. The impromptu event was thrown together by two midshipmen on watch duty.

Annapolis resident Jack Perry graduated from the academy in 1967 and was a plebe the last time Navy defeated Notre Dame, 33-15. Now a sponsor who hosts midshipmen at his home, Perry walked down Main Street with a group of plebes.

Said Perry: "There's been a lot of shoulda-been, coulda-been, woulda-beens, so this is great to see."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.