It's three days after Navy's first win of the season, and George Chaump has a rare moment to himself.
He's leaning back in a tall lounge chair, and one assumes that he's taken a moment to relax. But a closer look reveals Chaump is focused intently on a television -- no more than three feet from his chair -- studying a Stanford football tape.
After 30 years in the coaching business, Chaump is still very much a student of the game. He was that way at John Harris High in Harrisburg, Pa., where his teams went 58-4. He was that way in Tampa Bay, where, as quarterbacks coach, he helped the Buccaneers make their only NFL playoff appearances. And he was that way at Marshall University, where he led his team to the NCAA Division I-AA title game.
And he's that way now, facing his most difficult coaching challenge yet. His promising 5-6 first season at Navy -- the team's best since 1982 -- was followed by a 1-10 record last year. This year, his injury-riddled team was shut out in its first three games and started the season 0-7 before Saturday's win over Tulane.
Though he won 70 percent of his games before coming to Navy, the losing apparently has yet to get the best of Chaump. Each week, in his calm, quiet and confident manner, Chaump tackles the problem. And he can make you believe that the adversity will be overcome.
"I'll be honest with you, this is a bigger challenge than Marshall had been, and it's taken longer than I would like," Chaump said. "Nevertheless, we're on the right track. At Navy, you can't get a quick fix. It's a gradual, patient-type thing. I've developed a little more patience than I've ever had.
"But I think our day will come," he adds. "Things will be all right."
A record of success
Before Navy, Chaump was used to having things be all right. Four years after graduating from Bloomsburg College, he became an instant success as head coach at John Harris.
At a school that had won just one title before his arrival in 1962, Chaump coached four unbeaten teams and was Central Pennsylvania Coach of the Year in each of his six seasons. Chaump helped develop Minnesota Vikings coach Dennis Green, former USC All-America quarterback Jimmy Jones and Cincinnati Bengals assistant coach Jim Anderson.
"We were not always the best team in regard to talent, but we were always so well-prepared," said Anderson. "We had playbooks, weight-training books and studied highlight films -- and that was in high school. He was way ahead of his time."
Next was an 11-year stint at Ohio State, followed by three years as quarterbacks coach for the Buccaneers. Those two stops gave Chaump a chance to grow under coaches Woody Hayes and John McKay.
"John was flexible, while Woody was very detailed in terms of execution," Chaump said. "Each had their strengths. Each had their own way. I would lean to be like McKay a little more, a very practical and sound teacher."
But it was at Marshall -- he was hired there after four successful seasons at Indiana of Pennsylvania -- where Chaump began to blossom. He took Marshall to the I-AA national championship game in his second year (the Thundering Herd lost, 43-42, to Northeast Louisiana).
Navy athletic director Jack Lengyel, who watched Marshall play in that 1987 championship game, said: "I was very impressed with his open style of offense and his relationship with his players. He certainly had great coaching credentials."
"I'm an optimistic person, and I like to think positive," Chaump said when he was hired at Navy. "I'd like to see us doing our best and winning immediately."
But after a promising first season, Chaump lost seven projected starters before the 1991 season because of academic or personal reasons. Navy finished 1-10.
L This season also began with promise, with Chaump looking for
ward to unleashing his passing attack for the first time. But that promise ended quickly with injuries that depleted his quarterbacks (six have played) and tailbacks (five starters). That forced Chaump basically to conduct preseason camp during the season with Virginia, Boston College, North Carolina and Notre Dame among the first seven opponents.
The biggest challenge was keeping players positive.
"Nobody likes to lose, so you really have to respect a man that keeps plugging away," Navy defensive end David Shaw said. "I know it's difficult on him. Just like he hasn't given up on us, we haven't given up on him." And neither has the Navy administration, which has expressed its support for Chaump.
"The essence of what we've talked about here is continuity and patience," Lengyel said. "George is basically in his second year of recruiting, and I don't think you could evaluate a program without a full four-year cycle.
"A lot of people forget that George Welsh [now at Virginia, who was the last coach to lead Navy to a bowl game, in 1981] had one winning season in his first five years. We've got to be supportive and provide George an opportunity."
Driven to win
Chaump wears a huge ring on his left hand, a reminder of the year he took Marshall to the national title game. He yearns to succeed again. That yearning gets him to the office early and keeps him working late. That yearning puts Chaump three feet away from a television, trying to devise one more way to win a game.
"Turning things around always makes a big story, is always exciting and is going to attract a lot of attention," said Chaump, recalling his days at Marshall. "It would be the same if we won here. . . . If you don't go by just what you see on the scoreboard, you'll realize we're making progress. I'm confident we can get the program to where it should be."
Year school .. .. .. W .. .. L .. .. T
1982 Indiana (Pa.) ... .. 4 .. .. 6 .. .. 0
1983 Indiana (Pa.) ... .. 5 .. .. 5 .. .. 0
1984 Indiana (Pa.) ... .. 7 .. .. 3 .. .. 0
1985 Indiana (Pa.) ... .. 8 .. .. 2 .. .. 1
1986 Marshall .. .. .. .. 6 .. .. 4 .. .. 1
1987 Marshall .. .. .. . 10 .. .. 5 .. .. 0
1988 Marshall .. .. .. . 11 .. .. 2 .. .. 0
1989 Marshall .. .. .. .. 6 .. .. 5 .. .. 0
1990 Navy ... .. .. .. .. 5 .. .. 6 .. .. 0
1991 Navy ... .. .. .. .. 1 .. . 10 .. .. 0
1992 Navy-x . .. .. .. .. 1 .. .. 7 .. .. 0
Totals ... .. .. .. .. . 64 .. . 55 .. .. 2
x-Through Saturday's game