The Army-Navy Game: Facts and History

It is known to be one of the greatest football rivalries of all time. Yearly, men and women are tuned in to watch this football game that has been a tradition for many years. While much of the United States military has adopted a joint service format, when it comes to this football game, no one is thinking jointly. Either you are routing on the Army Black Knights, or you are wearing your sailor hat screaming for the Navy Midshipmen, and there is that possibility you are sulking because your Air Force Falcons cannot recognize a football from a jelly bean. (Just joking fly-boys)

In today’s post, we are going to look at the fun and competitive sport of American football. In particular, we are going to examine the facts and history of the Army-Navy game. So scroll down and put on your shoulder pads, but first a couple of jokes.

How come the Army football team doesn’t have a website?

They can’t string 3 W’s together.

What’s the biggest lie told at Navy?

I was just helping the sheep over the fence.

Army-Navy Football History

In 1890, a Navy Midshipman challenged an Army Cadet to a game of football and tradition was born. In 1893, the game was so heated that a Navy Rear Admiral and an Army Brigadier General nearly got into a duel. Because of that situation, the tradition was halted. In 1899, it was reinstated and has been played annually since except:

  • 1909 when Army Cadet Eugene Byrne died in a game against Harvard. Army cancelled the rest of its games that season.

  • 1917 and 1918 while the United States was involved in World War I. The War department cancelled the Army-Navy games those years.

  • 1928 and 1929 there were disagreements on the player eligibility standards, so the game was suspended both years.

All other years, the game has been played.

Originally, the Army-Navy game was played on the Saturday immediately following Thanksgiving, but with all the changes made in college football, you can now watch the game on the 2nd Saturday in December.

On a brief note of sadness, I will admit that Navy leads the wins overall, but Army will drown those sailors this year!

The Army-Navy game has been played in a total of 10 different locations. They are:

  1. 85 games in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Navy has won 43 and Army 38, and there have been 4 ties.

  2. 11 games in New York City. Army has won 7 and Navy 3 with 1 tie.

  3. 6 games in Baltimore, Maryland. The wins are split at 3 and 3.

  4. 4 games in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Navy has won 3 and Army 1.

  5. 3 games in Annapolis, Maryland. Navy has 2 wins and Army 1.

  6. 3 games in West Point, New York. Navy has all 3 wins.

  7. 1 game in Chicago, Illinois that resulted in a tie.

  8. 1 game in Princeton, New Jersey that was also a tie.

  9. 1 game in Landover, Maryland. Navy won that one.

  10. 1 game in Pasadena, California in which Navy won.

Navy has been winning this competition for quite a few years straight. They always are fighting for the Commander in Chief’s Trophy, and rightly so, since the Commander in Chief, the President of the United States attends the game yearly. That has been a tradition since Theodore Roosevelt first did so in 1901.

Before the game every year, and even during the game, pranks are played. The most common prank is the theft of the opposite team’s mascot, but many other pranks have been played too. The funniest one I witnessed was the dropping of thousands of ping pong balls on the opposite side’s sidelines.

Facts and Fun Knowledge About the Army-Navy Game

There are many fun facts about this game of all games. Just consider some of these:

  • The winning team receives a “night of liberty.” It means no homework or other duties on the night after the game.

  • President Dwight Eisenhower is the only President to have ever played in the Army-Navy game. That was in 1912.

  • In 1944, President Franklin Roosevelt required anyone that attended the game would have to buy war bonds.

  • General Douglas MacArthur telegrammed Army’s head coach to say he had stopped the war for the game in 1945. Army won 32-13.

  • Before every game is the marches of the Brigade of Midshipmen and Corps of Cadets. If you have never witnessed this amazing march, you have missed out.

  • At the end of every game, both teams stand together and sing each school’s alma mater.

  • There have been 5 Heismann Trophy winners who played in the Army-Navy game. They were: Doc Blanchard of Army in 1945, Glenn Davis of Army in 1946, Pete Dawkins of Army in 1958, Joe Bellino of Navy in 1960 and Roger Staubach of Navy in 1963.

  • One of the greatest pranks ever made was when a Presidential contender of 1992 was a Navy Midshipman. It was an absolute that an Army cadet ring the West Point bell every morning at 0800. But the door was locked. At 0800, the bell started ringing, but it rang the song Row, Row Your Boat. It seems Ross Perot had snuck in and locked the doors. He rang the song and was arrested for it.

Famed Players

There have been some legends who played in the Army-Navy game. Just consider:

  • Roger Staubach who was a famous quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys.

  • Phil McConkey who played for the New York Giants.

  • Napoleon McCallum who ran the ball for the Los Angeles Raiders.

Final Thoughts

Whether you like football or not, it is well worth your time to watch this great football rivalry. These men meet to decide who gets the trophy, and may soon be leading a team of soldiers or sailors into battle.

Who will you route for this year? What memories do you have of this great game? Have you ever attended it personally?

Please provide your questions and comments below. And with that I must say:

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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