October 25th, 2007
West Point — "Go Army! Beat Navy!" It's the unofficial mantra of the U.S. Military Academy, and it extends to all things on post.
When cadets walk by officers, they salute and murmur, "Go Army," and officers bark back, "Beat Navy."
There are four flower boxes on the superintendent's front porch. "Go Army," says one pair. The other pair? You guessed it.
At the nation's bastion for Army excellence, young men and women are trained to win wars and football games.
So when West Point Cadet Jeff Caslen heard about a contest for the "World's Loudest Pep Rally," he knew what to do:
"Stick it to the other academies!" he said.
The competition, sponsored by AT&T, challenged 120 NCAA schools, including West Point and the Naval and Air Force academies, to vote online to win a free, live concerts by the Dave Matthews Band.
Caslen, 21, a huge "Dave fan," joined forces with fellow cadet Luke Gebhart and sent e-mails to all 4,400 West Point cadets, ordering them — ahem, urging them — to send invites online.
A few weeks into the six-week contest, West Point was pulling ahead, edging out giant universities like Penn State and Texas A&M. But gaining fast were — who else — the other military academies.
When the contest closed on Oct. 15th, more than 3.2 million votes had been cast by students and faculty nationwide, and Air Force and Navy were nipping at West Point's heels. AT&T's Web site told fans to stay tuned for results.
At noon yesterday, as the entire corps of cadets hustled into the mess hall for 20 minutes of lunch, they immediately noticed the video cameras and civilian suits in the room. From the poop deck overlooking the lunch tables, AT&T spokeswoman Ellen Webner cued the big screens and the music.
And there he was, Dave Matthews, pointing out of the flat screens toward a raucous crowd of cadets high-fiving and tossing bread in the air.
"Congratulations," Matthews said. "We'll see you in November."
West Point submitted more than 500,000 invitations to win two free concerts on post Nov. 14 and 15, just weeks before the big Army-Navy pigskin classic.
Air Force and Navy finished second and third, respectively.
"We salute you," Webner said. "Go Army! Beat Navy!"
A limited number of tickets to see the Dave Matthews Band at West Point are available. For ticket information, or to watch the concert live on your computer, visit www.attblueroom.com/dmb.