A person late for an appointment today was quickly excused by Navy football Coach George Welsh, who said, "That's okay. I'm not going anywhere."
Here are people here who would like Welsh to repeat that comment in a different context. There is concern that Navy's highly successful 9-3 season will be the vehicle that will launch Welsh, frequently mentioned in job speculation, into a more lucrative position.
Welsh acknowleges that he would be interested in a legitimate, solid offer. But he is disturbed that his name so frequently is mentioned in refernece to positions in which neither he nor the school involved has any reasonable interest.
"I resent this sometimes," Welsh said. "My name seems to turn up on lists because I've had some success, and then it's thrown out. It's kind of like they use you, and I think some schools have used me. Schools have thrown my name out with no justification. They do it to pacify the alumni, I guess. If the alumni don't like their choice, they can point to all the other coaches that were on their list.
"I've had serious discussion with only a couple of schools since I've been here. Last year I only talked to Wisconsin. I went out for an interview and had some interest. But I kept being mentioned by a lot of others.
"Right now I intend to be back here in the fall. But one cant' predict in this business. I talked to a couple of schools (Sports Illustrated documented one, Florida) this year. I don't think I can sit here and say I'm going to stay here forever. I'm relatively young (45). If some schools want to talk to me, I'm not going to tell them no."
Welsh was rumored to be first in line for the Colorado job before Chuck Fairbanks took it, but he said, "No way. I did have some inquiries and that's as far as it got.I'm sure they got the guy they wanted, although maybe for a while it looked like they couldn't."
Welsh, who considers his contract terms a private matter, has never worked under a long-term contract and does not expect one now, despite his superb job this year. He will soon sit down with Athletic Director Bo Coppedge to discuss things.
"Contracts aren't that important to me," Welsh said. "You have to go out and prove yourself every year anyway. You have to win. I've never had a long-term contract and I don't know if I want one. The only thing a long-term contract does is if they want to fire you after a couple of bad years, you are compensated.
"But I don't think a school should commit itself for a long period. And a coach should do what's beat for himself. The timing wasn't good on Fair-banks' move, but I can't blame him. If he'd had a couple of bad years with the Patriots, he would have been gone before he got started moving them up. In this business, two bad years and you're out. In fact, in pro football you don't even have to have a bad year."
Right now, Welsh is interested in recruiting better players for the Naval Academy. He is realistic enough to know that they won't get much better than this year's team, his sixth and best.
"We have a good program now and I'm happy here," Welsh said. "We can win another game or two over this season, but I would bdoubt that we'll make the top 10, unless it's an exceptional year. I never thought we could.
"We were 11th one week because we were unbeaten and had that big win over Pitt. But I don't think we were top 10 realistically. We can be in the top 20, though."
At most schools, after such an excellent year, there would be a campaign to tie up the coach to a lucrative contract. Nobody has been breaking down Welsh's door, however.
"This is not the usual university," Welsh said. "We created some excitement this year. The Army game last year (a 17-14 defeat) woke up a lot of people and this year the game was more important for the brigade than it has been for a couple of years. But we don't have the alumni around here that get things stirred up at other schools."
Navy is unusual in another respect. The recruiting struggle continues long into the spring, because Navy does not issue grants-in-aid. Many high school athletes wait until the last minute before deciding between Navy and another school.
"It's nice to tie people down by February," Welsh said. "When you get the kids signed up, you have more time for football. With us, it does drag on. If kids don't havea to make a decision, they won't. A kid who has accepted a grant at Virginia but is interested in coming here can wait until June.
"The sheer weight of getting everything done here can be a problem. You have to get the physical out of the way and get a congressional nomination. Mroe congressmen are waiting longer and longer. It takes months sometimes to get it done and it's not the most pleasant part of the job."
It is part of the job, however, and Welsh accepts it as such. Although Navy has special problems, it also has special advantages. Welsh works with brights, highly motivated players.
Before the Holiday Bowl game with Brigham Young, Welsh quipped that "my players are small, slow and smar." BYU Coach LaVell Edwards responded that "we've better against the guys who are big, fast and dumb." The 23-16 result proved him correct.
Welsh does not think Navy needs to bypass any NCAA rules to achieve a respectable record. He doesn't like the way ex-Coach Homer Smith's charges of irregularities at West Point have been used as a tar brush on all the service academies.
"There have been several people who have said the West Point situation was going to hurt all the service academies," Welsh said. "I don't agree with that. We have different programs. We're a different school in a lot of ways and we have different ideas about running athletic programs.I don't see any way that should hurt us.
"When Michigan State went on probation, nobody said it was going to hurt Michigan. The NCAA recruiting rules are pretty specific. There are some gray areas, but all you have to do is get an interpretation. We're the same as any other school, except that we don't give grants-in-aid. We've been helped because the athletic director, Bo Coppedge, has been here a long time, and his assistant, Carl Ull-rich, keeps up with all that stuff. It's just a matter of having some guy responsible for it."