Army–Navy Game History

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Greg Stevens) The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

One of the most celebrated December traditions (after Christmas, of course!), is the annual Army-Navy football game. The tradition of the Army-Navy game is a storied one dating all the way back to 1890, when the first game took place on November 29 of that year. Initially, the game was played on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. That annual date has since moved to the second Saturday in December, which is typically the last game of the season for both teams. 

Though the Army and Navy teams have faced off more than 115 times since 1890, there were 10 instances when the Army-Navy game wasn’t played shortly after the game began. Those instances occurred year-after-year from 1894-1898. The interruption was caused by a disagreement between an Army general and Navy admiral, which deteriorated into an argument and nearly led to a duel! As a result of that incident, President Grover Cleveland called a meeting which resulted in orders that effectively prevented the teams from playing one another. This time apart helped diffuse the tensions between the teams, but in 1899, the Army-Navy game resumed. 

The 1899 game also represented a new venue for the games. After bouncing around for years, the Army-Navy game found a home in Philadelphia, PA. Though the game would change venue in future years, being played in New York and Baltimore, Philadelphia became something of the unofficial home of the Army-Navy game, with 88 games played in Philadelphia to date. 

One of the most unifying traditions of the game takes place after a winner has been declared. At the end of the game, both teams’ alma maters are played. First, both teams join together and sing the losing team’s alma mater to the losing team’s students. Then they turn and sing the winning team’s alma mater to the winning team’s students.

Another more light-hearted aspect of the rivalry are the spirit videos that typically circulate prior to each year’s game. Some are downright hysterical, while others are simply inspiring. There’s also the occasional mascot heist, which began in 1953. It’s also standard fare for the President of the United States to not only attend the game, but to follow a tradition set by Woodrow Wilson: crossing the field at the 50-yard line during halftime and watching the game from the other side. 

Over the years, things have changed, but one thing remains: the Army-Navy game is a show of strength between two of the U.S. Military’s greatest forces. With each passing year, the Army-Navy game continues to be a defining moment in the college football season, and in the hearts of military families around the country.



Posted on December 13 2019 in Blog

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