"Greg said, 'That's good enough, Coach. Thanks.' Then he sat back down."
Ross interviewed the coaches on Berry's staff and decided to keep three of them, including Mumford, whom he retained as defensive coordinator. In his 90-minute meeting with Mumford, Ross asked, What's been wrong here? Why hasn't it worked?
There are things you'll face at West Point that you never think about at a civilian school, Mumford told him.
Like what? asked Ross.
Sleep deprivation, said Mumford.
"An Army player's day is so full that every minute that's his own is precious," Mumford says now. "When you can get him an extra hour of sleep, it's like an extra five for anybody else." On Friday afternoons before home games Mumford gave the players three free hours to take naps in their rooms at a local hotel. "You'd have thought I'd given them a million dollars," he says. "They kept thanking me. Players at other schools might suffer from sleep deprivation, but it's more likely for reasons other than studying."
Another problem was keeping players' weight up. As Mumford explains, "The summer before their freshman year, players go through cadet basic training, and the summer after their freshman year they go through cadet field training. We see major fluctuations in weight then. I might have a 260-pound defensive lineman come in as a freshman, and by the time he reports in August he's down to 240."
Mumford ticks off other things that have kept Army from winning. Under Berry the offense was built around the passing game, but the Black Knights couldn't move the football or keep from turning it over. The defense had to spend too much time on the field, sometimes as many as 90 plays a game. Most teams try to keep that number below 70. By the time the third quarter ended, the defense was exhausted, yet it could not rest. Army ranked last in the nation in rushing in 2003, averaging only 63.5 yards per game.
One day this summer the Rosses had a team meal catered at their stately redbrick house across Lusk Reservoir from the football stadium. The house was designed by legendary Army coach Earl (Red) Blaik, whose tenure at West Point ran from 1941 through 1958 and included a 32-game unbeaten streak with 25 straight wins. Only about 30 players were enrolled in the summer session, and they showed up expecting to find trophies, game balls and other memorabilia from Ross's career prominently displayed in the first-floor living area. Instead they found photos of Alice and Bobby with their five children and 15 grandchildren. Players had to descend to the basement den to see that Ross had a life outside his family. There they found coach-of-the-year awards for his work both in college and the NFL. They found framed copies of souvenir programs for college bowl games and professional championship games. They found framed photos of Ross with his coaching staffs at The Citadel, Maryland and Georgia Tech. Many of his assistants in the old pictures had gone on to outstanding careers as head coaches: Maryland's Ralph Friedgen, Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer, Central Florida's George O'Leary. The players also found a framed copy of a Washington Post story dated Nov. 11, 1984, with the headline DOWN BY 31, MD. STUNS MIAMI 42-40. Ross was coach of the Terrapins that day, when they staged the biggest come-from-behind victory in Division I-A football history.
"He's had this amazing career, but he doesn't brag about what he's done or about the players he's coached," says Will Sullivan, a senior defensive end from Atlanta. "I remember he said he once coached a great quarterback at Maryland, and the guy had a different kind of name. He said it was Boomer. And we're all going, Boomer? Boomer Esiason? It's funny the way Coach does."