You may have seen the United States Air Force Academy hanging around the bottom of the polls all year. The Falcons are the class of the Mountain West conference, with a roster full of future military officers who signed up for serious academics and drills, instead of McDonald’s All-Americans who expect the world on a plate. Their head coach is Jeff Bzdelik, who came to Colorado Springs from a stint as head coach of the NBA’s Denver Nuggets.
It’s a strange recipe for success, but you can’t argue with the execution. The Falcons’ only loss came on a neutral floor vs. Duke, but they bounced back to take one from Bobby Knight and Texas Tech shortly thereafter. Their hallmark is harassing defense, which ought to see them through the cupcake MWC season with few problems.
On top of all that, they play on one of the most beautiful campuses in college sports, located in the foothills of the breathtaking mountains of Colorado Springs. The Air Force Academy Chapel, pictured above, is one of my favorite buildings ever. So, the Falcons have it going on, but who the hell are they? Let’s find out.
- Urged Nuggets GM Kiki Vandeweghe to draft Nikoloz Tskitishvili with a #1 pick so he wouldn’t have the most screwed up last name on the team.
- Thought this was going to be a lot more like Top Gun, with all the beach vollyeball and Kelly McGillis and stuff.
- Likes the thin air of Colorado because high altitude makes him get drunk faster – wooooo!
- Used his connections to get suspended Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony in for a pep talk at a Falcons practice. The players were said to enjoy the multimedia presentation, titled “Isiah Thomas is a punk-ass bitch, and how my boys going to hurt him when he least expect it”.
- Is the Falcons’ all-time steals leader. Sadly, theft is frowned upon by the Academy code, so Burtschi is also the all-time demerits leader.
- Despite the military’s “Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell” policy, Jake lists Will & Grace as one of his favorite TV shows in his official bio.
- Idolizes Larry Bird and Michael Jordan, so plans to get a perm and start gambling as soon as his military career is over.
- Was recruited by Gonzaga, but Adam Morrison’s haircut frightened him so much he opted for the buzzcuts of AFA.
- Likes to offer coach Bzdelik one of the extra Es in his last name, just in case he wants it.
- Has asked the team manager to follow the Colorado Rockies’ famous practice and keep balls in humidor for home games.
- Is 6’8″, so he always gets the crap job of windexing the cockpits of the training squadron.
- Favorite movie cliches: “Don’t look now, we’ve got company!”, “Let the girl go!”, and “Can’t this thing go any faster?”
- Cried himself to sleep every night of his first semester after watching Taps and Lords of Discipline.
- Thinks the Falcons would be a lot more intimidating if they were allowed to wear the epaulettes during games.
- Ordered a code red on his freshman roommate because he ate the last of the Skittles.
- Has a serious case of senioritis, which often causes him to sleep in until 6:05 am.
- Giggles whenever someone talks about teammate Ryan Teets.
- Refers to the chapel as “that one pointy building”.
- Loves the movie Braveheart. As such, believes that Scots are responsible for all of the wars in the world.
There you have them.
It’s always kind of nice to see a service academy succeed in national sports. With very rare exceptions, the top talent shuns the rigors of academy life. Army, Navy, and Air Force tend to personify the ideals of discipline, teamwork, and intelligence triumphing over mere athletic talent. In the tournament, the basketball factories will most likely win out, but we can all be proud of the grit our future fighting men show by making the dance and competing straight up with the top conferences.
I kid because I love here at Extrapolater. However, I do have a site dedicated to getting the straight dope about colleges across America, called College Rule Notebook. If you’d like to set me straight, take the quick survey. We’ll dig up links & photos to illustrate your answers.