Tuesdays with Tony: Col Lackey Talks About The Athletic Cadre

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Col. Tony Lackey ’61 has been around Citadel Athletics since the mid-1950s and provides a weekly blog on some of the sports highlights that he recalls.

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By Col. Tony Lackey ‘61

As told to Andy Solomon

Did you ever wonder when Athletic Cadre began?

For those of you who do not know what Athletic Cadre is, it is the period when our athletes arrive to school prior to the rest of the Corps so they can learn the military aspect of The Citadel.  It is during this time when they learn how to salute, march, dress appropriately, handle their rifle and other important and related “knob knowledge,” including the absorption of The Guidon.

Yes, I was involved.

Bobby Ross replaced Red Parker as our head football coach and he began his tenure prior to the the 1973 season.  He and his new staff – truly one of the best staffs ever assembled, and more on that another time — recruited and brought in a lot of kids.  However, Coach Ross lost about half of them within the first two weeks of school.

Bobby Ross started his illustrious head coaching career in Charleston, leading the Bulldog football team from 1973-77.

Bobby Ross started his illustrious head coaching career in Charleston, leading the Bulldog football team from 1973-77.

Things were obviously much different then as during the knob week — when freshmen were formally introduced to the fourth-class system – as many of the football players lived as civilians.  It was how it was back then, and always had been.

The freshmen reported, got their haircuts, and those who were football players went to practice in addition to everything else their fellow knobs had to learn and endure.

Like I said, it had always been done that way and each coach dealt with it differently.  I understand that Coach John Sauer and his top aide, Al Davis, once sequestered the football team at Parris Island.

As the football TAC officer, Coach Ross came to me and asked what could be done to help with the attrition.  We discussed the situation, and I eventually presented the question to Col Walt Clark, the Commandant of Cadets.

It was then that we decided that in 1974, we’d bring the football players in early and see if we can train them without football practice and have them ready to integrate with the rest of the freshman class.

Coach Eddie Teague, a former head football coach here who was also the director of athletics, had to secure NCAA approval, which he did, and it was approved.  Of course, Coach Teague was a former marine and being an ex-coach as well, loved the concept.

So we brought them early prior to the ’74 season.  I remember that Dickie Jones of Sumter, who was the A Company 1st Sergeant and later Regimental Commander, was instrumental in getting the Cadre started.  I believe that Richard Wieters, too, was part of the first Athletic Cadre.

Most of the Cadre then was comprised primarily of athletes, as they clearly understood the situation.

Reflecting, it worked so well that it is still in operation today, although it has been tweaked over the years.

As a side note, Coach Ross once consulted with VMI about their overall athletic program and suggested they adopt the Cadre system as we have it.

They declined.

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