"Greene was dismissed from the academy just weeks short of graduation, and although he could take neither a degree nor his commission, he did get a bill for $129,000 to cover the cost of his tuition, he said."
Academy criticized for being soft on athletes
By Philip Ewing – Staff writer
Posted : Saturday Feb 27, 2010 10:41:32 EST
Last August, as Joseph Wiggins was getting ready to begin his junior year at the Naval Academy, he got a call from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. In a random screening, Wiggins had popped positive for having smoked marijuana.
He didn’t do much to fight it, he said, since he knew he’d been in some “situations” over the summer he’d come to regret. His test was Aug. 21; he met with NCIS and Naval Academy officials Aug. 31, and by Oct. 7, he was discharged.
So Wiggins said he was puzzled last month when he read about another Naval Academy sophomore, Midshipman 3rd Class Marcus Curry, who was being permitted to continue at the academy after he tested positive for having smoked marijuana.
“I thought it was kind of unfair,” Wiggins told Navy Times from Roanoke, Va., where he is attending community college. “The criteria they used to retain him I just don’t get it.”
The reason Curry is staying at the Naval Academy is that he didn’t deliberately smoke pot, sources said; Wiggins acknowledged his marijuana use was intentional. Curry told officials he was passed a “blunt” that contained both tobacco and marijuana, so he couldn’t have known what he was smoking. However, critics inside and outside the academy have said Curry is staying a midshipman because he’s a star slotback on the football team and despite his drug test, three honor code violations and poor grades.
Wiggins was an athlete at Annapolis, too, but he was on the tennis team.
Curry’s story has reawakened an old complaint among the Brigade of Midshipmen and some Naval Academy alumni, made new again by Navy’s dominance on the gridiron: Star athletes skate by with honor code and conduct infractions that would get lesser athletes and regular midshipmen kicked out. Eager to keep the national spotlight and support from alumni who want to see Navy keep beating Army, academy administrators have gone soft on midshipmen who should be gone, critics said.
Four sources who spoke on the matter asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to talk to reporters or they have continued on active duty elsewhere in the Navy and Marine Corps.
One source with detailed knowledge of academics at the academy provided Marine Corps Times with the records of four former football players and one current player. Dating back to 2005, the records show the administration regularly let the players stay on despite poor grades, low class standing and multiple violations of the honor code. Each player in the list had been on academic probation at least once, each had failed at least one course, and all but one had multiple honor violations blots that normally would earn a midshipman a ticket home.
According to information provided by Naval Academy spokesman Cmdr. Joe Carpenter, a total of 13 midshipmen were separated for violating the school’s drug policy from 2005 to 2010; of those, seven were athletes and two were football players. Over that same period, four others were found in violation of the drug policy and resigned or were separated for other reasons, including academic or honor code shortcomings; of those, two were athletes and one was on the football team.
By contrast, Carpenter said, “over the past six years, approximately 3,600 Naval Academy midshipmen have participated in 32 Division I varsity sports. The overwhelming vast majority of these young men and women upheld the high standards expected of Naval Academy student-athletes.”
The academic source agreed with that point: “Ninety-five percent of these kids are great kids, and they should be there.” That doesn’t excuse the 5 percent who don’t and get a wide amount of latitude the others don’t enjoy, the source said.
The source pointed to Midshipman 1st Class Nate Frazier, a 6-foot-3-inch nose tackle and one of the team’s top defensive players, who was dismissed from the Naval Academy last August. Frazier accumulated two honor code violations and underwent special remediation on ethics to try to keep him on the correct side of the rules, the source said; Frazier even signed an agreement acknowledging that if he broke the honor code again, he understood he would be kicked out. Frazier, now at the University of North Alabama, could not be reached for comment.
In the spring of 2009, during Frazier’s junior year, he committed the third ethics violation, and yet Superintendent Vice Adm. Jeffrey Fowler agreed he could stay on, the source said. In August, when Frazier committed a fourth honor code violation, the academy kicked him out.
Most midshipmen don’t get that kind of tolerance.
In the spring of 2008, Midshipman 1st Class Hunter Greene, who was a member of the intramural weightlifting team, found he was having trouble studying. A friend with a prescription for the psychostimulant Adderall, used to increase concentration in patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, offered him a few pills. His mother, who had a prescription for the antidepressant Prozac, also offered him a few of her pills. Greene took both. When he was given a regular urinalysis test, he tested positive for amphetamines.
Greene was dismissed from the academy just weeks short of graduation, and although he could take neither a degree nor his commission, he did get a bill for $129,000 to cover the cost of his tuition, he said.