The Enemy Within - Trailer

How We Almost Lost the Corps of Cadets

“Separating fish from their outfits is not something that fosters [leadership]” -Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp to anonymous cadet, February 22, 2024

I am a Concerned Parent and Former Cadet in the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets. Over the last two weeks of February 2024, the Corps faced an existential crisis. I have detailed, inside information on the timeline and substance of how that occurred, and how the cadets, the donors, the stakeholders, and every single leader in our University, including the Chancellor, the Board of Regents, and the President of the Texas A&M Foundation were caught completely by surprise by a secret plan to radically restructure the Corps experience. 

I think it is vitally important that the full story gets out.

This is the story.

How I Found Out About “Fish Academy,” the Secret Plan to Radically Restructure the Corps of Cadets

Approximately one month ago, I received an urgent text from one of my old Corps buddies. He has a son who is a fish in the Corps and knew that my oldest son was an upperclassmen in the Corps. He asked me if I had heard about a radical new proposal for restructuring the entire Corps fish experience and upper-class experience, emanating from the Trigon. I told him I had not heard anything about such a proposal, and in fact, when my classmate told me the outlines of the proposal, it sounded so-ill conceived and inconsistent with the Trigon messaging that I chalked it up to the Corps rumor mill. It was far too radical for me to believe.

But then, over the next few weeks, I started receiving more calls. Incoming students who I had recruited and their parents started showing me Corps meme pages, indicating that radical, major structural overhauls to the fish experience were under consideration.

Still, I did not give much credence to these rumors. The reason I didn’t give much credence to these rumors is because I have gotten to know Patrick Michaelis, The Commandant of the Corps of Cadets, well, and have had many, many interactions with him in which he emphasized his priorities as being centered on outfit integrity and student-driven leadership. Up to this point, he had my full support, along with the support of everyone I talked to. 

The proposals I was hearing were inconsistent with The PM’s stated mission and inconsistent with the messaging he has put out there to his stakeholders and donors. I simply did not believe what I was hearing.

And yet the calls from concerned parents and cadets continued. I started losing count of how many communications I was receiving on this issue. At this point, the smoke started seeming like more than just smoke. Something was on fire. What to do?

The calls and texts continued and increased in volume. At that point, I decided, after consultation with a number of involved Aggies, that the best course of action was for me to call PM directly and ask PM directly what was going on.

My Conversation with The Commandant – Disaster Brewing

On Friday, February 16, at about 7:00 p.m., Patrick and I spoke for one hour and nine minutes. I told him I had heard rumors about restructuring the fish experience, and that I didn’t know what to say to people who were asking questions. Patrick then went through his entire plan for the Fish Academy plus his justification therefore. After that, he asked for my thoughts, which I gave him. Suffice it to say, I encouraged him to reconsider his position in the strongest possible terms, and he assured me he would give it some thought.

Why I Am Publishing This Letter

I am publishing this letter because I think current and former cadets, stakeholders, donors, University leadership, and the public-at-large should know exactly how these decisions came about, including specifically the process (or lack thereof) by which the decision was reached, the ambiguous doublespeak that continues to this day, and suggest some reasons for why the idea of radically restructuring the Corps without careful study and stakeholder buy-in was ill-advised and potentially dangerous to the health of the Corps and a not insignificant portion of the University’s current and potential donor base. In fact, I believe that we still face risk, particularly with donors, because I have heard many donors say they will not give money to the Corps at this time. I also understand that there is a massive lack of trust in the Corps itself amongst the cadets, which obviously creates a significant problem.

Most importantly, the purpose of this letter is to take a process that was conducted in secret and lay it out in the open for all concerned, so interested people can draw their own conclusions about the matter.

A Breathtaking Lack of Process

The entire Corps of Cadets is structured around the fish. The fish are the soul of the Corps. The outfit-based model has worked and continues to work. When you are considering a radical change that will upend the very soul of an organization, you need to be scrupulous about buy-in, marketing, and communication.

Here, there was no open process, no consultation with the stakeholders, and no consideration of the existential consequences.

For example, the following stakeholders were never informed or were not accurately informed of the plans or the decision until after it was made:

  • The Board of Regents
  • The Office of the President
  • The President of the Corps of Cadets Association
  • The Members of the Board of Visitors.
  • The President of the Texas A&M Foundation

Many of the people I have spoken with said they found out about this plan only after it was announced last week, including the people with fiduciary responsibilities to the University who absolutely must be briefed when the funding of the institution is potentially at risk.

The lack of communication with the relevant stakeholders is troubling, inexplicable, and inexcusable. It puts our fundraising efforts, both now and for future capital campaigns, at serious and unnecessary risk. It puts our alumni network in a terrible position because we now have to convince people to join an organization that will be unrecognizable, based on bad reasoning and a closed process that wasn’t vetted or discussed openly. What do those of us on the front lines of recruiting tell interested high school students and parents now? What do those of us on the front lines of fundraising tell potential donors?

Poor Process, Even Worse Plan

We will never retain our way to 3,000 cadets. Quite frankly, we have a top line revenue problem, not an “expense” problem. This decision is like a business owner worrying about the cost of his coffee machine when he has no clients. We need to focus on attracting more quality cadets, and focus less on keeping 100% of them, because if we keep 100% of the cadets, we simply aren’t doing it right. We should expect some attrition—if we don’t have adequate attrition, then the Corps isn’t hard enough to be meaningful.

More importantly, in an effort to save outfits that should not be saved, we will kill outfits that should not be killed. What we should be doing is determining the best outfits in the Corps by objective measures, studying what they are doing, and then build the Corps around the best models.

This plan turns that idea on its head. It kills the golden geese.

After the details of PM’s plan began leaking out, hundreds of upper-class cadets signed a petition promising to resign and walk off the quad, never to return. Donors began questioning their decisions. Meme pages exploded. Incoming fish parents and incoming fish began questioning their decision. To this day, no one has received any clear direction on the actual plan going forward, another failure of leadership and communication.

What Has Happened in the Past Week

I started calling everyone I knew two Friday nights ago, asking them if they had gotten wind of what was coming. No one I talked to had any idea this was coming, but people started making phone calls, and I understand this issue got all the way to the President of Texas A&M, the Regents, and the Chancellor’s office. In fact, Chancellor Sharp emailed an anonymous cadet who was worried about the plan, ensuring the cadet that he did not support ripping fish away from their outfits. That email is quoted at the beginning of this letter.

I understand that a great deal of cadet pressure was also brought to bear. Cadets began creating pamphlets, online surveys, and memes. It was quite astonishing to watch the Corps jump into action.

In any event, last week, PM was forced to issue a retraction, which wasn’t really a retraction.


This proposal, and the process by which has been rolled out, was inadequate and unworthy of the Corps of Cadets or Texas A&M. It puts a lot of people in very bad positions. The substance itself is counter productive, contradicts the objectives communicated by the Trigon for the past 2 years, and will destroy the Corps.

I think it is also the responsibility of our leadership of Texas A&M to conduct a thorough investigation to determine root causes of this catastrophe, issue findings publicly for all to read, and make this disaster a case study for cadets in leadership failures, so they can learn from a close and real-life example. We should also consider back-up candidates so there is no gap in leadership at the Corps in the event there is a change at the top.


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