I was finishing up dinner with my family Tuesday night when my phone rang. It was Air Force men’s basketball coach Dave Pilipovich.
“You’re leaving us? You can’t do that!” he said.
He laughed, like he always does, and congratulated me on my move to Yahoo! Sports, which begins on Saturday. I’ll be mostly writing about college football for the Dr. Saturday blog. We talked some Pittsburgh Pirates baseball (he’s a big fan) and he invited me to come down for a Falcons game this season and say hello.
That’s how my final week covering Air Force went. When people who work at the academy learned the news, they shook my hand, congratulated me and wished me well. That happened dozens of times. Pilipovich didn’t have to call me, and I certainly wasn’t expecting it, but it was a classy gesture. But, actually, that’s how my 26 or so months covering the academy went.
This is one thing all Air Force fans should know: I wrote stories on many athletes from many different sports, and I did not have one negative encounter with a cadet. Not all of them liked doing interviews, and some were obviously nervous if it was their first one, but nobody said a bad word to me. Nobody ever stood me up on purpose for an interview request. I covered the NFL for 10 years. I know what it’s like to have bad words said to me, and definitely know what it’s like to be blown off. It’s remarkable that it never happened at Air Force, considering how many stories I wrote and how many interactions I had. I’m not saying the cadets are perfect – were you when you were 21 or 22, much less 19 or 20? – but for the most part they represent the academy well. You should be proud to root for them.
Here’s an example: I had planned to do a story on Falcons center Michael Husar Jr. for weeks. His father played at Michigan, and I knew this week was a big deal for his family. Then Husar hurt his knee against Idaho State and was out for the season. I requested to interview him, not knowing if he’d want to talk. He came down to the media room on crutches, and was great for the story I did for Friday’s paper. I told him a few times how I was sorry to be talking to him under those circumstances. I thanked him for coming down to talk, but he thanked me back.
“Thanks for the interest,” Husar said after answering questions about the most devastating injury of his football career.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time covering Air Force, and all nine of my years at The Gazette. I saw great games at Navy and at the Military Bowl. I got to chronicle incredible stories like diver Moranda Hern’s non-profit organization to help teenage girls, the always entertaining Frank Serratore, the incredibly touching backstory on the Holadays and their record donation to Air Force, Alex Means starting a family and the inside story on Troy Calhoun’s first recruiting class. There were so many other fun and interesting stories too, and I couldn’t have done them without the cooperation of the Air Force athletes and coaches and the great work by the sports information staff, or without the support from The Gazette, especially from Jake Schaller, who laid a great foundation before I replaced him on the beat and just handed his playbook to me.
I also enjoyed interacting with all of you, whether it was one of the great and proud parents of an Air Force player, or the fans who read and commented. I’ll be @YahooSchwab on Twitter, and I hope you all stay in touch with me there.