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Army-Navy Game History

Aug 26, 2020 9:00:00 AM

Go Navy! Beat Army! Those words are yelled by Midshipmen throughout the year at the Naval Academy and culminate with the yearly Army-Navy football game, typically held at Lincoln Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This rivalry between the Midshipmen and Cadets was first played at West Point on November 29, 1890. It was a shutout! There’s no doubt the Midshipmen were cheering raucously as they won the game 24-0.

The Midshipmen had a decided advantage for that game. They had played football since 1879, while the Cadets of West Point only started playing the game in 1890. It seems Navy was destined to win the first game that soon became a tradition. The two have faced off a total of 120 times. Those good at math, realize there should be 130 games. It may be logical to think that war canceled most, if not all, the games. However, only two games were canceled due to World War I, in 1917 and 1918. 

Another time, seemingly a skirmish occurred between a Navy Admiral and an Army General after the 1893 game. At some point, it appeared a dual would take place. Fortunately, that did not occur.  In addition, fans were allegedly taking shots at one another in the stands.   As a result, the rival football game was not played from 1894 to 1898, when it was mandated that the teams could only play home games.  The 1909 game was canceled to honor and mourn the death of a West Point Cadet, Eugene Byrne, following a game against Harvard that year. On top of that, disagreement regarding rules of player eligibility by both Army and Navy canceled the games in 1928 and 1929.

America’s game has become an annual event since 1930. When the Midshipmen entered the stadium in 2016, they expected to win their 15th straight game. Alas, this was not to be - the Cadets beat Navy. Regardless of that break in their streak, the Midshipmen still stand proud as their overall record is 61 wins, 52 losses, and seven (7) ties.

Midshipmen have many traditions and activities that revolve around this special game. As you enter the parking lot of the stadium, you will see many blue and gold flags throughout the parking lot. These flags are calling to  classmates and friends. Tailgating is a favorite activity among alumni and fans. Many arrive early to catch up with friends and families of new Midshipmen.

March On

While possibly not a favorite of Midshipmen; a favorite of Midshipmen families and friends is “March On”.  A tradition where the entire Brigade of Midshipmen, along with the entire Corps of Cadets, crisply marches on to the field in formation by company. They march with pride and in military precision. You can see parents and friends looking for their Midshipman and pointing them out when they are found in the sea of white covers and navy blue overcoats.


The minute you sit down for kickoff, you’ll hear a roar of engines in the distance. All of a sudden, Navy jets fly over the stadium. The flyover is another favorite among fans. When the President of the United States attends the game, Air Force One may also do a flyover. Other pre-game favorites are the Navy’s Leap Frogs and Army’s Black Knights, parachute teams. 




Prisoner Exchange

A rather unique event that will occur before the game is the Prisoner Exchange. This is part of the Service Academy Exchange Program where students from each of the four service academies are exchanged to spend the fall semester at an academy other than their own. Midshipmen and Cadets are released, sent back to their home team stands to cheer on their school with their classmates and friends, ceremonially concluding their exchange semester.  

Singing of the Alma Maters

One of the most solemn traditions, especially for alums, is once the game is won or lost. While many fans are leaving the stadium, some fans are standing at attention; these are the alums. When Navy wins, the alma mater is sung after Army.  Both teams stand at attention for both alma maters.

The game is over, and yes, there was intense rivalry during the game. But whether the Midshipmen or the Cadets win, they know they are always comrades in arms.

Topics: Insider

Bill the Goat
Written by Bill the Goat

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