It wouldn't be Army-Navy week without some controversy, and the Midshipmen experienced theirs today when Coach Gary Tranquill vehemently denied a published report that he would resign if Navy lost Saturday's game to the Cadets.
On a day when Tranquill also was concerned about the loss of his leading tackler, linebacker Jim Dwyer, to a fractured bone in his leg, he also was upset about a story in the Baltimore Sun that quoted unnamed sources as saying he would give up his position if Navy (3-7) lost its final game of the season.
"I have never mentioned nor contemplated resigning, nor will I ever," said Tranquill, a softspoken sort who rarely publicly displays his anger, as he opened his weekly news conference. "Sometimes coaches are a little hypocritical about this kind of thing. You tell your players to keep fighting and not give up, and then you do the same thing. I won't do that. Ever."
Navy Athletic Director Bo Coppedge would not discuss the status of Tranquill, who is believed to be in the fourth year of a five-year contract, other than to reiterate that all Navy coaching contracts are reviewed annually at the end of the season. But he also delivered a vote of confidence.
"I don't talk about that, and I never have," Coppedge said. "Certainly not externally, and not even internally until the season is over. I will say this: I think Gary Tranquill is a fine football coach and a good one for the Naval Academy."
Tranquill said he was as much disturbed by the timing of the report as he was by its content, and feared it would upset his team over the week of their biggest game of the season. A victory over Army traditionally is considered worth a season in itself, and a win on Saturday would salvage an exceedingly disappointing year.
"I think it has an adverse effect," said Tranquill, who has a 16-26-1 overall record, including a 2-1 mark against Army. "We're in the middle of game preparation, and it's a big game. It's distracting to the players and the coaches. Wait until it's over and then you can do what you want with Gary Tranquill. It's ill-timed."
Tranquill refused to comment on the length of his contract. As a matter of policy, terms of Navy's contracts are not disclosed.
"I could have eight or nine more years," he said. "I don't think it's anyone's business how long is left on my contract."
A victory over Army would be heightened by the fact that the Cadets are 8-2, experiencing one of their best seasons in recent memory, and headed for a Dec. 31 meeting with Illinois in the Peach Bowl. Navy was thought to have one of its strongest teams with all-America tailback Napoleon McCallum, but the Midshipmen have suffered a string of injuries, including the loss of quarterback Bill Byrne with a ruptured spleen, and lost five of their games by a total of 15 points.
The Midshipmen were on the verge of being healthy this week for one of the few times all season after a two-week layoff following a loss to South Carolina Nov. 16. But they suffered yet another potentially crucial injury in Tuesday night's practice when Dwyer fractured the fibula in his left leg.
A 6-foot-2, 223-pound senior, Dwyer had 64 unassisted tackles, 47 assists, four for losses and two sacks. He will be replaced by Mike Taylor, who is ninth in team tackles with 47. J.D. Cook, a junior defensive back, recently was moved to inside linebacker to add some depth, and will serve as a backup.