No More Turning Pro Upon Graduation for Military Academy, ROTC Athletes

Chad Hennings graduated from the US Air Force Academy in 1988 and went on to fly 45 combat sorties over northern Iraq in an A-10 Thunderbolt II in support of Operation Provide Comfort. Hennings received a waiver in 1992 to be released from active duty as part of the Air Force’s reduction in force. He would go on to serve almost 10 more years in the Air Force Reserve Individual Mobilization Augmentee program while playing nine seasons for the Dallas Cowboys.

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Washington, DC – In a major policy change, the Defense Department rescinded its 2016 policy allowing military service academy and Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) athletes to be recruited directly into professional sports, chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana W. White announced on Monday (May 1).

“Our military academies exist to develop future officers who enhance the readiness and the lethality of our military services,” White said in a written statement. “Graduates enjoy the extraordinary benefit of a military academy education at taxpayer expense.”

Upon graduation and effective with this year’s graduating class, White explained, the newly commissioned officers will serve for their minimum commitment of two years. The department has a long history of officer athletes who served their nation before turning pro, she added, including US Naval Academy graduate Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach, US Air Force Academy graduate Chad Hennings and David Robinson, a Naval Academy graduate.

The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) are a group of college-based officer training programs for training commissioned officers of the United States Armed Forces.

Notable Graduates

Staubach graduated from the Naval Academy in 1965 and went on to serve four years of active duty service in the Navy, with one year of overseas duty in Vietnam. He played 11 years in the National Football League as quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, leading the Cowboys to two Super Bowl victories. He was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985, his first year of eligibility.

Hennings graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1988 and flew 45 combat sorties as an A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot over northern Iraq in 1991 and 1992 deployments. He went on to play nine seasons as a defensive lineman with the Cowboys, earning three Super Bowl titles.

Robinson, a 1987 Naval Academy graduate, was chosen by the San Antonio Spurs with the first pick in that year’s National Basketball Association draft. After Navy service, he began his pro career with the Spurs in 1989. In a career that stretched to 2003, he earned two NBA titles, as well as two gold medals and a bronze medal as a member of three US Olympic basketball teams.

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