Army-Navy Rivalry: A History

Chris Champitto - College Football Contributor

The Army Navy game has many historic moments and traditions. 

In a sport that celebrates pageantry and passion, this days stands above all else. Beginning with a show of service and sacrifice, a sea of blue-coated Midshipmen will fill the field in perfect unison. Followed shortly after, in an equal show of precision, a field of grey-suited Cadets take their place. The Brigade of Midshipmen and the Corps of Cadets, sharing this field as they will many others around the world.

This is the only game where everyone playing in it, is willing to die for everyone watching it, and since 1890 the Army Navy game has embodied the timeless commitment of a group of young men and women to the nation and the ideals that both academies serve. War heroes, presidents, and Heisman Trophy winners have all graced this stage. Enemies for a single day who know their calling will unite them when they leave the field, just as their stories do wherever in America they began. We must never forget how it all starts for them, never forget what it takes to decide, as a kid, that your life is going to be about more than just yourself.

From the very beginning it has always started the same way. Across generations. across eras, they've gotten word that they have been chosen, to sacrifice, to dedicate, to serve. They've headed off to West Point, and to Annapolis. It take a certain kind of kid to commit to these institutions, and now, today in a football game, we celebrate the courage of every man and woman to ever make that commitment. Today we look back at some of the key historic moments in this storied rivalry.

No remember 29, 1890 was the date that began the greatest rivalry in American sports. The Midshipmen of the United States Naval Academy all chipped in 52 cents to travel to West Point for the first Army Navy game and Navy would go on to win 24-0.

In 1901 President Roosevelt attended the game starting a presidential tradition. During halftime Roosevelt walked across the field to switch seats to the other academies side. This tradition has continued as 9 sitting presidents have attended the game as of 2018. 

The 1926 game, featuring an undefeated Navy team and an Army team with a sole loss to Notre Dame, would dedicate Soldier Field in Chicago and was played in honour of all those who lost their lives fighting in World War I. An estimated 110,000 fans watched the game that played late into the winter night. Eventually the game would be called a draw at 21-21. At the time the Cadets held a winning record against their Brothers-in-arms 15-12-3.

From 1944-1946 many schools chose to suspend football activities due to the second World War, but both Army and Navy elected to not let the war dictate their everyday lives. in 1944 and 1945 Army and Navy would enter the game as the number 1 and number 2 team in the country, respectively.  The 1944 match-up would be dubbed the "Game of the Century" and would be played shortly before the legendary Battle of the Bulge. Army would win 32-13 and would go on to win three consecutive National Championships.

November 22nd 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. 15 days later Army and Navy would meet on the field once more, but it was almost canceled. The military was to celebrate a 30 mourning period and the academies were in talks of canceling the game. Jacqueline Kennedy however, urged the game to be played. President Kennedy had attended the previous two games and had plans to attend this one as well. Navy was ranked number 2, and was lead by Heisman Trophy winner, Roger Staubach to a 21-15 win to cement a spot in the Cotton Bowl and chance at a National Title. This game was also the first time instant replay was used for television. On a 1 yard run touchdown run from Army, CBS television producers wanted to give viewers a second chance to see the run. 

In 1972 Richard Nixon would award the first Commander-in-Chief trophy, a trophy given to the winner of the series of games between Army, Navy and Air Force. The trophy features three footballs, one for each school, and the mascot of the participating schools.

The 1975 saw the introduction of a new tradition lovingly called the "Prisoner Exchange". Second year students at the academies are eligible to participate in a student exchange to the other service academies. Right before the start of the game the Navy students studying at Army are marched out by the Army First Captain , and the Army students studying at Navy are marched out by the Navy Brigade Commander. They meet at midfield are are allowed to spend time with their respective schools. The belief behind the start of the tradition is that Cadets and Midshipmen wouldn't have to  be in 'hostile' territory during the rivalry game.

Most recently in 2016, the notorious triple-option offence of  Navy was on an unprecedented run of dominance in the rivalry winning 14 straight. At half, the Army offence, which could only be described as an air-raid style of play for most of the seasons in the drought came in with a rushing attack and lead the team to a 14-0 lead. Navy however would not go quietly as they would take the lead 17-14. With 6 minutes left in the game Army quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw would run the option from the 8 yard line, he would keep the ball and run into the endzone for what would be the first winning touchdown Army has had in 15 years. Army has won the rivalry game in the years since. 

How fitting it is that the "City of Brotherly Love" is the backdrop for "America's Game", a game of brothers whose love for something greater than themselves, fuels their every action. While most rivalries stem from the hatred of the other school, (Ohio State/Michigan, Duke/North Carolina, USC/UCLA, Alabama/Auburn) this one is different. This is born from respect, from a brotherhood and a sisterhood that fraternities and sororities could only dream to attain. For the one-hundred-twentieth time this is Army Navy, and whether you yell "Go Navy! Beat Army!' or "Go Army! Beat Navy!" the one thing both sides can agree on is, it is ALWAYS better to "Sing Second". And with that said I leave you with "Go Navy! Beat Army!"

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