Army-Navy Football Game - the History of

time: 17:56:59 12/06/2018  view: 2120

This weekend’s Army-Navy football game comes with a long history that most sports fans may be completely unaware of. Initially, all active service divisions were represented, including the Coast Guard. This division withdrew in 1932 citing too few men available to continue. At that time, the Navy team were referred to as Marines. The Marines had already won 5 of the 7 games they had played. This ‘league” was picking up steam and they had their fair share of Presidents to bring attention to their games.

The Trophy Cup

Left to right: Major Paul W. Baade, Army Athletic Officer; Staff Sgt. Harry O. Troupe; Pres. Coolidge;

Coxwain Claude A. Ezell, U.S. Navy, and Lt. Commander H. Bryan, Navy Athletic Officer

White House,Washington, D.C. Photo: Library of Congress Archives.

This annual football game was first played in 1891. President Calvin Coolidge presented a trophy cup to the service football division in 1924 to honor future annual winners. Later in 1945, the Army-Navy football game was declared the “Game of the Century“.  It turns out there was a reason for such a proclamation. The Army’s linebacker and fullback, Doc Blanchard took home the Heisman Trophy that same year.

However, the following stats are from the service football games begin in 1972. There is a reason for this. The trophy cup that Coolidge provided in 1924 has dropped into oblivion. (If anyone knows where it landed, I’m keenly interested in knowing!) Furthermore, the current Commander-in-Chief trophy is credited to have been initiated byAir Force General George B. Simler, a former Air Force Academy athletic director. Simler envisioned the trophy as a means to ensure the annual series of football games for the Air Force Academy against the Military Academy and the Naval Academy would continue. Ultimately, the trophy is jointly sponsored by the alumni associations of all three academies.

Although all three major networks have hosted this game over the years, CBS currently holds the rights through the year 2028. Whereas, the game used to be played on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, it was moved to the first Saturday in December and now the second Saturday in September. Thus, the Army-Navy annual game is the “final game” among the college teams.

It has long been claimed that these team members play solely for the love of the game. Reason being, these men are required to fulfill a post-graduation active duty term. This military service is typically two-plus years. As a result, having completed their active duty these servicemen are often considered too old to play or with injuries that prevent such.

Army Black Knights versus Navy Midshipmen

However, a few have proven otherwise. Perhaps the most memorable is Roger Staubach, trophy winning quarterback. This Hall of Fame athlete saw two Super Bowl victories with the Dallas Cowboys. He played for the Navy in 1965. Phil McKonkey played with the New York Giants as both a wide receiver and return specialist. In addition, McKonkey lavished in his Super Bowl XXI win with the Giants. Phil also played for the Navy – in 1979.

To further credit the Navy, running back Napoleon McCallum played for the Los Angeles Raiders beginning in 1986. (Soon to be the Las Vegas Raiders in 2020.)  Running back Kyle Eckel, (Navy, 2005) was a two-time Army-Navy Game MVP. Moreover, Eckel played in the Super Bowl twice during a five year career. Firstly, with the New England Patriots (Super Bowl XLII) and secondly with the with the New Orleans Saints (Super Bowl XLIV).

To my knowledge the Army hasn’t had a pro football player yet.  Although, they did have Doc Blanchard win the HeismanTrophy. If they have had a pro football player and I’ve missed him–let me know. Thus far, the Navy holds the upper-hand at 57-41.  This is a bitter-sweet decades long battle and we want the Army to have their fair share of victory too. This year’s game airs at noon on CBS this Saturday, December 8, 2018.

Final Numbers

Honorable mention: The Air Force Falcons joined this football battle in 1959. To date, they have won the Commander-in-Chief trophy a record 20 times. The Navy Midshipman’s have had 15 wins, while the Army Black Knight’s have a mere 7 successes. However, the Army Black Knight’s are the current Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy holders. More importantly, the Black Knights are on a 7 game winning streak. They are currently at 9-2. Meanwhile, the Navy Midshipmen are at 3-9 for the season. May I be so bold as to proclaim I think the Army is going to keep it?

View the Army’s interactive website detailing the new black and red uniforms they are debuting this weekend. It gives an overview of their inspiration — the WWI First Infantry division. It even includes the infantry’s motto!