- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 1, 2000

ANNAPOLIS This might be the best week of the season so far for the Navy football team. For the first time in nearly two months, there's no chance the Midshipmen will lose.
Less than four years removed from a victory in the Aloha Bowl, the Mids head into their second bye week 0-8. Less than four years after the school gave coach Charlie Weatherbie an unheard-of seven-year contract extension running through 2006, alumni and fans have begun to clamor for his removal. And less than four years after a well-known sports author displayed an unbelievable amount of reverence toward the program in a book about the Army-Navy rivalry, that same program has fallen prey to a slew of scandals and arrests.
With the possibility of the school's second winless season since 1900 looming, the golden helmets that glistened in the Hawaiian sun in 1996 just don't seem so gilded anymore.
"The past is the past. We have got to look ahead, week by week, to see what we can do to get a win," sophomore linebacker Josh Brindel said. "We have to hope for sort of a snowball effect, where we get that first win [and then win the next two]."
Last week epitomized Navy's problems this year. Weatherbie suspended junior linebacker Shaka Martin after Martin became the third Navy player arrested on rape charges. Then the Mids blew a 14-point lead easily their best start of the season in a home loss to Toledo.
Even before the season began, the outlook seemed poor. Navy lost its quarterback rising star Brian Madden, a junior expected to be the fulcrum of the offense to a knee injury at the end of spring practice.
Running back Dre Brittingham and cornerback Bas Williams were arrested July 3 on charges of second-degree rape and second-degree sex offense, the same charges that Martin faces, in connection with a party in Arnold, Md., on June 29. In addition, Williams was charged with third-degree sex offense.
That meant three starters and vital ones at that were lost before practice began in August. And the injuries only got worse. Among the 13 casualties listed in the Navy game notes yesterday were senior left guard Philip Yeh and senior linebacker Daryl Hill. And that's not counting Martin, who started the first seven games this year.
"[It's not a distraction], but all that stuff adds up," Weatherbie said about the arrested players. "We lost three pretty good players, all three starters, all fine football players. Then you throw the injuries on top of that… . When you have been nicked up all year long, you end up trying to make it with guys who are not at full speed or by trying to bring along a guy who doesn't have that much experience."
With Navy's recruiting problems the five-year service commitment after graduation and lack of conference affiliation and bowl berths provide major deterrents and the inability to redshirt players, Weatherbie's squad possesses little depth. That has forced Navy to use nine players not even listed in the team's media guide at the start of the season.
Another major problem has been the ineffectiveness of Navy's triple-option offense, especially without Madden. The proverbial slingshot, which allowed the undersized Mids to lead the nation in rushing last season, has slain no giants in 2000. In fact, Navy ranks 111th out of 114 Division I-A teams in total and scoring offense. This season's crackdown on crack-back blocks, an essential part of Navy's slant-blocking scheme in the past, has played a part in that.
"What we've got to do as a team is bounce back, go back to fundamentals, the little things that make the big things happen," Weatherbie said. "I have said this before. I believe we're doing the right things to be successful."
It wasn't long ago that the Navy program found itself in a similar position only to resurrect itself. In the mid-1990s, Sports Illustrated ran a column suggesting Army and Navy drop down to Division I-AA in football, then recanted that after a 1996 season in which the two academies reached bowl games. Behind star quarterback Chris McCoy, the Mids finished the regular season 8-3, losing only to Boston College, Notre Dame and in one of the best and most meaningful games in the rivalry Army. Navy then ended the college coaching career of Steve Mariucci with a 42-38 victory over California in the Aloha Bowl.
It was around that time that John Feinstein, in his book, "A Civil War," described the two academies as being atypical of the ugliness of Division I-A football and still representing "what this country can be."
The Mids' first winning season since 1982 left Weatherbie, then in his second year, as one of the most sought-after coaches in the country that December. Boston College, Arkansas and Baylor reportedly showed interest before athletic director Jack Lengyel awarded him with the contract extension in January 1997.
That extension could save Weatherbie, who has six years remaining on the 10-year deal. The coach, in his sixth-year at the academy, received some critical mail this season but said alumni like Roger Staubach have been supportive of late.
"We always evaluate what we're doing at the end of the season, and we'll do that this year," Lengyel said. "I don't want to lead you either way, but, no, there is no buyout clause."
It didn't look like the word "buyout" would venture into Lengyel's vocabulary in 1997, McCoy's senior season. The Mids went 7-4 as McCoy cemented his place in Navy lore by rushing for 1,370 yards and passing for 1,203. But the Mids missed out on a bowl because two of their wins came against Division I-AA foes Virginia Military Institute and Colgate.
From there, though, the Mids' fortunes began to sour. Later that school year, the academy placed McCoy on probation, revoked some of his privileges and ordered him to do marching tours as punishment for "fraternizing" with a female midshipman off campus. The midshipman, former women's basketball player Felicia Harris, was expelled for having sex on campus with two other midshipmen. Sex off-campus is an infraction but not one punishable by expulsion. The incident, however, caused Harris to claim McCoy had received preferential treatment from the academy.
Without McCoy, the Mids scrounged out only three wins in 1998 and managed a 5-7 mark last season, when Madden led Navy to three victories in its last five games. It seemed the surge would continue under Madden, who averaged 161.2 yards rushing in his five starts, until his injury in the spring game. No Madden meant no offense, and no offense meant, at least so far, no wins.
"The only way I know how to have fun is to W-I-N," Weatherbie said. "It's tough when you have to come out without the satisfaction of a victory."

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