On November 5, 2022, West Point will play its annual football game with the Air Force Academy. The game will be held in Dallas, Texas again. Due to its proximity to my home, I will be in attendance with several West Point alumni friends and with my wife who is a USAFA graduate.
The 2020 honor scandal involved many Army football players. To date, West Point and the Army have blocked freedom of information (FOIA) requests from West Point graduates to review the current form of the cadet honor code and details of the outcome of the investigation. It seems 15-1 (the honor code guide) became unavailable to cadets and the public after 2018.
On 10 March 2022, several Army cadets including Army football players overdosed on cocaine and fentanyl on spring break in Florida. On 17 March 2022, Superintendent Williams began the stonewalling process in a letter sent to the Long Gray Line asking for silence from graduates on the matter. Worse, several days later, the New York Post reported on a culture of cocaine abuse, particularly amongst West Point football players, that had apparently existed since at least 2016.1 Correlation does not equal causation, but it is interesting to note that West Point seemed to have a miraculous change of fortune in football standings during the period that allegedly featured cocaine abuse in West Point’s football locker room. Also, the Superintendent of West Point during the majority of their recent winning seasons and time of scandal was a former Army football player. Concerns of the Superintendent loosening ethical standards for football players continue to circulate amongst graduates. Now GEN Williams was Superintendent of West Point from 2018-2022.
Year Army Football Record Cocaine Bowl Game
2016 8-5 cocaine? won
2017 10-3 cocaine? won
2018 11-2 cocaine? won
2019 5-8 cocaine?
2020 9-3 cocaine? lost
2021 9-4 cocaine? won
Since the scandal broke, West Point has ignored several FOIA requests for information related to the investigation that was promised and required. One of the few that was answered was filed 22 August 2022 by a 1971 USMA grad who got the following reply on 14 October 2022, more than 7 months after the cocaine scandal became national news.
“In accordance with the Army Regulations 25-55, The Army Freedom of information Act Program, we have confirmed with the custodian of the records that the investigation is not yet completed. Please follow up with our office in 30 business days, whereas we will facilitate the confirmation of the investigation’s completion. Once the investigation is complete, you may re-submit your request for processing.”
General Patton generated the plan and began movement of Allied forces to defeat the German army at the Battle of the Bulge in less than 36 hours. West Point has taken more than 7 months to investigate 5 cadets who the nation knows purchased cocaine and fentanyl. With this decline in general officer ability, it is little wonder the Kabul 2021 disaster happened.
As of 17 October 2022, West Point is 2-4 and USAFA is 5-2. While I like a winning season as much as anyone, the events of the past year have highlighted what is truly important at the service academies. Football standing doesn’t even make the top 10. The past few Commander in Chief trophies that West Point has bragged about are tainted with cocaine and dishonor to many graduates.
Honor and integrity are straightforward concepts. While no institution enjoys airing its laundry in public, the importance of trust with the public and graduates should compel West Point leaders to publicly demonstrate that it has examined the problems and revealed the fundamental changes made to fix the academy. The disturbing trend among general officers from the Afghanistan war to hide or distort the truth appears to be continuing. Is West Point cocaine free? Has West Point fixed the egregious mistakes it has made in the honor code in the past few years? We may never know.
To many, West Point sets the ethical and moral tone for the rest of the Army. It is noteworthy that amidst these recent West Point scandals and general officer stonewalling, The US is 0-1 in wars (Afghanistan) and isn’t even close to meeting its recruiting goals.
Which team will come to Dallas next month? Will the team that took advantage of Superintendent Williams’ laxed policies that created the environment for the honor and cocaine scandals show up. Or, will a team representing what West Point is supposed to be, an honorable institution whose sole purpose is to train officers to win our nation’s wars, take the field.
No matter what the score, I will cheer for the game that features cadets from 2 academies who pledge to defend America. I pray that at the conclusion of the game, the Army football team that stands at attention towards Army fans during the playing of the Army Alma Mater will live up to the ideals in the lyrics.
Army Alma Mater
Hail, Alma Mater dear,
To us be ever near.
Help us thy motto bear
Through all the years.
Let Duty be well performed.
Honor be e'er untarned
Country be ever armed.
West Point, by thee.
John Hughes, MD
West Point Graduate Class of 1996
1Kennedy, Dana, et al. Cocaine and pain pills: Inside Secret Drug Culture at West Point. New York Post, 19 March 2022.