Coast Guard football goes national on homecoming day By Mike DiMauro Published on 10/11/2009 New London Day / theday.com New London -- This would have been the view from the bleachers on Saturday: a background tableau of Fort Griswold and foliage framing the Thames River, with several graduating classes on the emerald green turf of Cadet Memorial Field. And the chorale was singing the national anthem, with no unnecessary notes or nuances, no derelict with blue hair turning it into a ballad. And the people sang. This was homecoming day at Coast Guard Academy and everyone was there, even members of the class of 1945. Not a bad day, not at all, for Coast Guard to go national. Yes, national. As in CBS television national. Thanks to Jason Southard, the academy's sports information director, CBS College Sports taped a segment that aired Saturday night at halftime of the Texas Christian-Air Force game. The Bears sent the crowd of 2,100 home dealing with a rare loss during this program renaissance, a hideous 37-34 defeat to Fitchburg State in double overtime. But even in losing, Coast Guard, perhaps forgotten among comparative behemoths Army, Navy and Air Force, earned a spot among service academy programs. ”I saw that CBS College Sports (CBS' answer to ESPNU) called themselves 'home of service academy football,'” Southard said. “So I contacted them and said that we're a service academy, too, and that we were going for our 300th win as a program. They sent a crew.” CBS College Sports was in the locker room for coach Bill George's pregame speech and filmed segments of homecoming ceremonies and the first half of what became a day when the Bears were stuck on 299 wins. Southard, nonetheless, should take a bow. It's not often - like never - that a national broadcasting outlet ever comes to the academy. Let the record show that CBS came to Coast Guard Academy for a sporting event. ”Our guys put forth as much as the others (at other academies),” George said. “Those other guys live the Division I lifestyle. Our guys have to sacrifice to play here.” The Division I lifestyle would likely include not having to march in the rain at 5:30 p.m. before you have football practice the night before the homecoming game. But then, that's part of the deal at Coast Guard. It's never going to change. And so when athletic success comes - or in Saturday's case some national recognition - you treasure it. Saturday's loss was atypical for the Bears, or at least the recent Bears. In the past three years, they've played for the New England Football Conference championship twice. They may do so again this season. And it's because they've won many, many more close games than they've lost. In the two games before Fitchburg, two wins came in the fourth quarter. This one, but for a play here and there, would have been Fourth Quarter Win No. 3. ”That's how we win around here,” George said. He wasn't being arrogant. He meant that Coast Guard's margin for error is thinner than a saltine. They had to settle for a good show on Saturday, rather than a great victory. At least, though, anyone watching CBS College Sports on Saturday night saw another service academy where respect still wins over insolence, honor and tradition still count, and patriotism comes without apology. A place where the Star Spangled Banner is played as it's written: quickly and respectfully. And a place where liberal or conservative, hawk or dove, peacenik or bomb-'em-into-next-week, an outpost that offers the opportunity to appreciate freedom. George admitted that his players didn't get a very compassionate speech after the game. He also accepted all the blame for the loss. But the season is not lost. Neither is the significance of the day and all the people who had the opportunity to see that the forgotten service academy plays good football, too.