For the coaches the march never ends. Chal Port quit not long after the Alewine incident, ending 27 years as a baseball coach. "I've never been in favor of hazing or harassment," he says. "There's a better way for leadership than to be negative all the time."
Football coach Charlie Taaffe shrugs when asked about the Fourth Class System. Every day he works with freshmen who can barely keep their chins off the ground. You can walk into the lobby of the football building any weekday and not be able to sit down. All the couches and chairs are filled with sleeping freshmen. Last season Taaffe lost four out of 17 recruits to the Fourth Class System, and that's a waste of money and time and scholarships.
The coaches know that The Citadel would rather close its doors than give up the Fourth Class System. The breaking down of knobs is the backbone of the place. The Fourth Class System survives even though The Citadel's own 1988 report found that a vast majority of the faculty believe the system severely hurts freshman academics. "Our kids are exhausted when they come to class," says one English teacher. "As a result they are less competitive when it comes to grad school and ROTC commissions."
Watts bristles. "The Fourth Class System is time-tested," he says. "It's not a mean system. It's a demanding system."
And it might just be chasing out the wrong boys.
Pride in Achievement
These days field goal kicker Davis does not feel nine feet tall and bulletproof. He feels terrified. Six weeks after leaving The Citadel, he was driving his car when he pulled over and went absolutely ballistic. He began screaming at his girlfriend—yelling at her as if she were a knob, saluting and marching back and forth. All he remembers is coming to on the hood of his car.
"I guess I went crazy," he says. "Like somebody in a war. I didn't know who I was or where I was. My girlfriend said I blanked out. I guess I'd gone back into [The Citadel]. It's funny, before I went to The Citadel, I never blew up at my girlfriend. Now I blow up at her all the time."
He's seeing a psychiatrist. He had a chance to kick for a small college, but he got only as far as the mailbox. "I didn't go because I'm scared of failing," he says. "I'm scared to make any kind of decision. I doubt myself so much."
Davis's condition is just one of the achievements the sophomore class of 1990-91 can brag on. Smith, the cyclist, quit The Citadel soon after the saber episode. He and his mother got only $1,200 of his $13,000 loan money back. The Citadel explained where the rest went—to uniforms and meals and whatnot—but Smith never understood how he could have spent it all in three weeks.