Department of Army move stinks

Caleb Campbell (Getty/ Jim Rogash)

First off, hats off to Caleb Campbell. He's handled himself with class since this wild ride began when the Detroit Lions drafted him in the seventh round of the NFL draft in April. Unfortunately, the Department of Army has ended it prematurely by revising the controversial alternative service option (ASO), put in place in 2005. Campbell deserved a lot better than this.

On the eve of the start of Lions' training camp, Campbell was instructed to leave the team, and there is no guarantee he will get another shot. The alternative service option would have allowed Campbell to be a recruiter if he made the Lions. But the ASO is history now because a Department of Defense policy has superseded it.

In a letter to Detroit president Matt Millen dated Wednesday, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jonathan P. Liba wrote that Campbell has been ordered to give up professional football for "full-time traditional military duties."

Liba wrote that Campbell may ask to be released from his active duty obligations in May 2010 and was allowed to enter the draft "in good faith." This abrupt change doesn't only rock Campbell's world. Former Army baseball players Nick Hill, Milan Dinga, Drew Clothier, Cole White and Chris Simmons will also have to report with a unit for active duty.

Like Campbell, only after two years of service will they be allowed to apply for release from their active duty to play professionally. Campbell drew the most attention the policy and earned plenty of good press. But he also received bad press and Army's service academy rivals Navy and Air Force also complained that West Point had an unfair recruiting advantage.

Now, Army has the exact same policy as Navy and Air Force, and it only seems fair that all three proud schools follow the same rules. No doubt, the Department of Army officials felt a lot of heat to change the policy. But the timing couldn't have been worse.

Campbell has handled this as good as he could, but he did admit crying after hearing the terrible news. Who wouldn't have?

"It's unfortunate, but it doesn't mean Caleb Campbell's dream is dead. It just means it will be delayed," Army spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Anne Edgecomb said. "We want to take care of soldiers, and dashing their hopes is not what we intend. But it is what it is."

Sure, Campbell could get another chance in two years. Millen is an Army guy, his son Marcus played for the Black Knights, graduating in May. So expect him to look out for Campbell as good as he can the next few years.

But the NFL is still a business and there are no guarantees. Detroit retains Campbell's rights as an unsigned draft pick for now. The Lions must sign Campbell before next year's draft or they will lose his rights.

According to the Detroit Free Press, The Lions agreed to a contract with Campbell on Tuesday, but he never signed it. But this could have all been avoided if Army just let Campbell and the baseball players play.

It would have been a tough call, one that would have drawn criticism, but Army should have grandfathered the new policy in. Making the change, but allowing the folks in to keep pursuing their pro dreams. Instead, Army crushed them.

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