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Friday, September 07, 2012

Know Your Foe: Air Force

After last weekend's Disaster in Dallas at the hands of the Alabama Oversigners Crimson Tide, the Wolverines return to A2 and the friendly confines of The Big House for their 2012 home opener against Air Force.  The game features more than its share of unanswered questions for Michigan fans:  Will Fitz Toussaint start at tailback?  How much will Blake Countess's season-ending injury impact the secondary?  Will the U-M student section be more than 1/8th full at the start of the game due to Dave Brandon's new student "loyalty program?"  But those questions are for tomorrow.  Right now it's time to learn a little something about Michigan's opponent in this week's thrilling edition of Know Your Foe.

We even walk across campus in lock step
History - The United States Air Force Academy is the youngest of the five United States service academies having been established in 1954 and graduating its first class in 1959 (quick, name the other four service academies.  And yes, KYF knows you can name West Point and Annapolis.  Now name the remaining two*).  Graduates of the Academy's four-year program receive a bachelor of science degree and most are commissioned as second lieutenants in the United States Air Force.

To get into the USAFA, high school students must not only have the grades, but are also judged on leadership ability, athletics and character.  And they must pass a fitness test and medical examination.  And then they still need to be nominated, usually by a member of Congress from their home district.  Recent incoming classes have about 1,200 cadets or, as Nick Saban calls that, one recruiting class.  Only about 1,000 of the incoming cadets graduate and the maximum number of undergraduates is set by Congress at 4,417.  While you probably know that tuition, room and board are all paid for by the United States government, you may not know that cadets also receive a monthly stipend not unlike Ohio State football players, although those Buckeye payments aren't NCAA-legal.

In 1918 a military man began pushing for a separate "aeronautical academy" and a Congressman introduced legislation for one in 1919, but it was not until the 1940s that the idea of an Air Force Academy began to gain traction.

According to the AFA's own website, probably the most controversial event in the Academy's history was the admission of women.  That came about because U-M grad and President Gerald R. Ford signed legislation in 1975 allowing women to join the service academies (have you guessed the other two, yet?).  The first women entered the AFA in 1976 with the first female graduates in 1980.

* Give up?  The other two are the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT and the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY.

Location - Colorado Springs, CO.  After considering 580 locations in 45 states, Colorado Springs was chosen in 1954.  Located 65 miles south of Denver, Colorado Springs rests over one mile above sea level and has a population of 416,427 according to the last census.   It is the second most populous city in Colorado (after Denver) and 41st in the country.

In the past several years, Colorado Springs has been selected the number 1 Best Big City in Money magazine's Best Places to Live and number one in Outside magazines list of America's Best Cities.

On an interesting aside note: Colorado Springs is one of the most active lightning strike areas in the United States. This led Nikola Tesla to select Colorado Springs as the place to build his lab and study electricity.

Nickname - Falcons (also Fighting Falcons).  According to the AFA official website, "Members of the Class of 1959, the first to enter the Academy, chose the falcon as the mascot of the cadet wing Sept. 25, 1955, feeling that it best characterized the combat role of the U.S. Air Force. They did not specify any particular species, thus, any falcon can serve as mascot."

Attack!  Just kidding
Mascot - In 1955, the first falcon presented to the cadet wing was named "Mach 1" (for obvious reasons).  Since then, the official mascot name is still "Mach 1," although each bird also gets an individual name from the falconers.  And while bird experts once said falcons couldn't be trained to perform in front of large crowds, cadets have flown birds in front of large crowds since 1956 with nary a gouging making the news. 

From the AFA website: "Falconry is one of the extracurricular activities offered to cadets. There are usually 12 falconers, with four chosen from each new class at the end of the year to replace graduating seniors."

Colors - Blue and Silver.  KYF has always liked Air Force's colors, although that could just be some sort of hometown bias because it reminds us of the Detroit Lions (the new winning Lions, not the crappy losers we grew up with).  
Same as it ever was

Logo/Helmet - While they're called the Falcons, Air Force has pretty much used the same blue lightning bolt helmet design since the 1950s with only slight variations.  While it may be pretty basic and even somewhat confusing due to the Falcon as the mascot, the consistency moves the helmets up a couple notches higher than it probably would be otherwise.  KYF is a sucker for tradition.

Sadly, KYF believes that the Air Force logo - an interlocking block A and F - pretty much sucks.  It looks like it's something inspired by a guy on a deadline who just came from a Dodger game.  Lame.  I mean, for guys training to fly planes faster than the speed of sound, surely somebody could come up with and design a better logo.  Get on it, General Dynamics.
Is this Abercrombie & Fitch?

Fight Song - The U.S. Air Force is the official song of the Air Force Academy.  Yet while the name is pretty unoriginal, the song is pretty sweet.  It was written in 1939 and is often referred to as "Into the Wild Blue Yonder" or simply "Wild Blue Yonder."  It took forty years for the Chief of Staff of the Air Force to adopt it as the official song in 1979.




Academics - According to the latest U.S. News & World Report ranking, the Air Force Academy is the #33 National Liberal Arts College  (personally, I would have thought it would be a little higher).  And while Gerald Ford may have opened up the school to women, it is still 79% dudes.  The acceptance rate is only 13.1%.

Athletics - All cadets take part in the school's athletic department, be it intramural or intercollegiate.   On the intercollegiate side, the Falcons field 17 men's teams and 10 women's teams.  While the football team competes in the Mountain West Conference, most people think of Air Force's rivalry with the two other main service academies, Army and Navy, for the Commander-in-Chief trophy.

Air Force has done the best job taking home the coveted trophy, winning it 18 of the 34 times it has been contested.

And the best NCAA team fielded by the cadets?  The boxing team which has won the national championship a staggering 18 times and never finished lower than 2nd in the nation until 2008 (when it took 3rd).

Cats in the cradle, not the cockpit
Famous Alums - As you might expect, the AFA graduates a ton of people that you probably haven't heard of, but who do more important stuff than most "famous" people graduated by other schools.  Put it this way, they have a shitload of astronauts and, lest we forget, each of their graduates serves our country upon earning his or her degree.  So we'll set the snark aside and salute them all.  But who might you have heard of/not suspected when to the AFA?  NBA coach Gregg Popovich.  And among the list of non-graduating alums, we found singer Harry Chapin (didn't see that one coming).  Of course this wouldn't be KYF if we didn't also point out there have been no Presidents who graduated from the Air Force Academy.

The Game - After the utter beat down in the season opener, this is a very tricky game for Michigan: its ego - and seemingly half its starters - are pretty banged up.  However, KYF believes Brady Hoke has the same ability that Bo and Lloyd had in getting their players to bounce back from tough defeats early in the season.  Denard bounces back big time.

MICHIGAN - 30
AIR FORCE - 14


6 comments:

616goblue said...

Well done Yost.

The typical snark-fest that can be KYF was scaled waaaaay back as it should when playing a serivce academy.

Can't wait to witness kickoff from Section 16 at 3:30pm tomorrow.

Dennis said...

I think it will be closer than some folks think, but I'm not far from Yost. Mostly because I think Air Force will be able to keep the ball and chew up the clock. I'm not sold yet on Michigan's defense. Hard to tell yet, since Alabama is a tough grader. Assuming Denard doesn't get hurt, I expect the usual out of him against slower, human defenses. Michigan wins 35-20.

Doug said...

I hope you lose so that I get another healing picture. That last one was awesome.

Yost said...

LOL, Doug. Yeah, have to admit, I hate seeing that last one drop down the page myself.

Mikoyan said...

I could have named the other two academies. Very nice KYF though.

Ramona said...

Yost, a gentleman and a scholar.. and a very cogent analysis.. and a very good prediction for the score!