Here’s What Navy Football’s Changed Motto Means

In the lead-up to their 2019 season, the US Naval Academy’s football team decided to change their season’s motto from “load the clip” to “win the day.” This was in response to employees at The Capital Gazette (a newspaper in Annapolis, MD) calling into question a lack of sensitivity surrounding last year’s deadly shooting in its newsroom. The horrific incident took place in June of 2018 and left five people dead. For the past several years, the team’s captains have come up with a different motto to use for the season. According to a Navy spokeswoman, the phrase “load the clip” was intended to “be a metaphor for daily game day preparation.”

When put into context of current American society, this decision becomes very interesting to dissect. It speaks to a number of truths about our current culture as well as the modern military in this country. Several points become apparent when considering what these events mean. Here are a few examples of those points.

1. Those who think that the military is not a politically correct institution are wrong.

When one thinks about political correctness in the United States, a number of groups or institutions may come to mind. Examples can include politicians, the mainstream media or colleges. But some might think that the armed forces should be omitted from this collection of PC examples. Perhaps that’s because they tend to lean to the right politically or because they rely heavily on the use of guns and other weapons. But make no mistake about it, the military can often match the political correctness of any other established fixture of American life.

Look no further than the statement made by Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Admiral Sean Buck. In response to this controversy, Buck said:

“The bottom line is, we missed the mark here. The initial internal football team motto selected, ‘Load the Clip,’ was inappropriate and insensitive to the community we call home, and for that, I take responsibility for, and apologize to not only the Capital Gazette, but the entire Annapolis community.”

A more politically correct response would be difficult to imagine. To call the motto “Load the Clip” inappropriate and insensitive while also apologizing shows that even the military is not immune from going into damage control to appease anyone who may find something insensitive.

2. Loading a clip is the only way that a Navy officer would be able to win at their most important job.

The reason for the “Load the Clip” slogan being used by the Navy’s football team is the obvious connotation between sports and the field of battle. Without a loaded clip, Navy personnel would be significantly unprepared to enter combat and “Win the Day” (in keeping with their new slogan). But anyone with a reasonable understanding of the differences between athletic competitions and war should be able to tell that loading a physical clip (or magazine) with actual bullets is not how football games are won. So despite the fact that we as Americans root for our military to “win” on the battlefield, the means to which they win (like loading clips) are a bridge too far when put into a metaphorical context for a team that represents a branch of that same military.

3. Despite the loading of clips, the US Military rarely wins wars anymore.

Actually winning a war has become pretty rare for the American armed forced these days. It’s not for lack of preparation since their clips (and other weapons) have no problem being loaded. It’s also not for a lack of technological advancement, deadliness or money spent since all of these things have made our military the greatest in the world. The lack of winning is a phenomenon that arises from the politicians who send troops to war not having adequate goals for those troops to achieve in order to actually win. This is why the military often spends year after year (and sometimes decade after decade) occupying various nations around the world with seemingly no end in sight. Winning isn’t possible if you can’t know when you’ve won. So actually, “Load the Clip” is more appropriate than “Win the Day” to today’s Navy since preparing weapons for use has become much more common than winning wars.

NCAA Forces Football and School to Go Together (Unfortunately)

Amidst the beginning of the 2017 college football season, UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen made a statement about student athleticism that has shook up the world of collegiate athletics. In an interview with Bleacher Report, Rosen said that “football and school don’t go together, they just don’t. Trying to do both is like trying to do two full-time jobs. There are guys who have no business being in school, but they’re here because this is the path to the NFL. There’s no other way. Then there’s the other side that says to raise the SAT eligibility requirements. Ok, raise the SAT requirement at Alabama and see what kind of team they have. You lose athletes and then the product on the field suffers.”

Rosen isn’t the first football player to make this point. Back in 2015, Seattle Seahawks’ three time All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman spoke about the difficulty in balancing a life as both a college football player and full time student. But could there be a way out of this difficult situation? If so, what would it look like?

The concern that Rosen has over the time constraints of being an elite Division-I athlete and a student shouldn’t come as a surprise. College football brings in huge revenues for the school, the conference and the NCAA. As those revenues have continued to grow, less emphasis has been placed on academics for those who compete and star on the highest level. As a result, many football players choose an easy major with a light work load in order to stay eligible. Rosen’s major, economics, takes more time and effort than one which simply keeps you eligible to play a time consuming sport. So it would seem as if he has a first-hand experience as to the difficulties a student-athlete would encounter when dealing with the pressure of an intense academic schedule.

Rosen’s claim that there are players competing at the highest levels in college football who have no business being in college should also not come as a surprise either. Since putting a great team on the field takes priority over other concerns, elite schools in top conferences will often forgo sub-par academic performance in order to assemble a better squad. This is often why easy majors at these universities exist in the first place. It has also lead to a number of academic scandals involving top athletic programs.

The key statement in Rosen’s comment is that “there’s no other way.” This refers to the fact that playing football in college is the only real way to get noticed by the NFL. Despite college academics having nothing to do with playing a sport, top football players are forced to take on a full time class schedule and football schedule at the same time if they want to reach the professional level. Since a player must be removed from high school for three years before entering the NFL Draft, an athlete must find a way to stay eligible through several semesters. This is a significant difference from the NBA’s “one and done” rule where athletes leaving school after one year only have to stay eligible for a single semester before being drafted.

The solution to this problem is that the NFL needs to take a page out of Major League Baseball’s playbook. Create a minor league system that allows players to be drafted by an NFL team and develop their skills on that level before going pro. This way, players who do not desire a full time college schedule or those not able to undertake one would not have to. Doing this would certainly provide the “other way” that Rosen cited as not existing in the current system.

Sadly, the NCAA would not let this solution occur. Allowing another path to the NFL would likely cause many elite football players to choose against playing for a top school. Thus, the level of talent on the field would suffer. The NCAA is not about to let this happen. So for the sake of maintaining a certain level of play in college athletics, they will prevent a “minor league” system managed by the NFL that would threaten their significance. The revenue stream for college football can’t be threatened in any way. As a result, going to college must remain the only way for an outstanding football player to display the talent that he has. Whether that player has the academic ability or desire to be in college in the first place will not be a matter for concern.