Shortly after Boo Corrigan was hired as Army's athletic director earlier this year, he found himself talking to a group of graduates of the U.S. Military Academy. Nobody in the room noticed, but Corrigan seemed to be doing a pretty good imitation of a man many consider one of the most influential and respected college athletic administrators of his time.
"I found my mannerisms were the same as my dad, the way I was talking," Corrigan recalled. "He's a lot smarter than I am. I called my brother David and said, 'I think I've become Papa Gene.'"
The influence of his father, a Baltimore native who was the athletic director at Virginia and Notre Dame before becoming the commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference, was what directed his now 44-year old son back into what essentially was the family business.
A little more than a decade earlier, the younger Corrigan left a sports marketing company he started in Baltimore with his cousin Lee to become an associate athletic director at Navy. It came after a decision that he and his wife Kristen made stemming from their similar experiences growing up.
"My wife's father was the AD at Villanova when she was growing up. My dad was an AD when I was growing up. The job came open at Navy and we had a chance to raise our kids the way we were raised, a chance to be on a college campus, and not just any college campus," Boo Corrigan said. "It's an aspirational type school and you're around role models every day."
After spending three years at Navy working for Chet Gladchuk and splitting eight more between Notre Dame (where his brother Kevin is the men's lacrosse coach) and Duke, Corrigan was hired in February to replace Kevin Anderson, now at Maryland.
For Corrigan, Saturday's Army-Navy game will be a homecoming of sorts, being played at FedEx Field in Landover for the first time.
But Corrigan will be rooting for the other team.
"At the end of the day it comes down to relationships, and these are where my relationships are right now," Corrigan said. "I have great respect for Kenny (Niumatalolo, the Navy coach) and Chet and the people down at Navy, but these are my battle buddies now."
Corrigan's three-year stint at Navy certainly enhanced his candidancy for the Army job — and his interest in the job.
"I don't know if I would have been considered or not (had he not worked at Navy) but clearly having the military experience on our resume was a plus from having an understanding and appreciation of what the mission is, which is to create leaders and character," he said. "Clearly that was a benefit of my resume. We want our children to be around a school that's bigger than they are."
Gene Corrigan, now in his 80s and living in retirement outside Charlottesville, said that schools such as Army and Navy — and to an extent Notre Dame and Duke — still have the kind of setting that made it easier for he and his wife to raise their seven kids.
"I can't think of a better place for him to be," Corrigan said Thursday during a visit to Baltimore to see family. "It's more like colleges used to be 20 years ago."
Gene Corrigan gave his namesake — Boo is officially Eugene Corrigan, Jr. — his first job after graduation from Notre Dame, as an intern in the ACC office in Greensboro, N.C. But Boo Corrigan believes that his preparation for his first athletic director's position began long before he went to Navy to work for Gladchuk.
"It's kind of cool to grow up around the kitchen table with four brothers and two sisters and listen to your dad talk about coaches, picking up coaches at the airport when you're old enough to drive and being around that," Corrigan said.
He recalled meeting Bruce Arena when he came to Virginia to be interviewed for the head soccer coach and assistant men's lacrosse coach.
"Bruce got dropped off at our house and I think I was the first person in Charlottesville to meet Bruce Arena other than the cab driver," Corrigan said. "It's an unbelievable way to look backwards at your life and the relationships I've had."
But he also must look ahead, to getting Army football where Navy has been for most of the past decade. After making a bowl game last season, the Black Knights slipped back this season, finishing with a 3-8 record. Navy, which has beaten Army nine straight years, goes into Saturday with a 4-7 record, its first losing season since 2002.
"I think it all starts, first and foremost with Rich Ellerson," Corrigan said of Army's coach. "He understands what West Point is, what the end game at West Point is and then works from within to get the kids we need to get and how we're going to do it. Navy had Paul Johnson and he kind of got everything going. We've got Rich Ellerson. The progress we're making, we're making it the right way. In the long haul, we're going to do what we need to do."