Entertainment

Army vs. Navy: One of College Football’s Greatest Rivalries

December 1, 2022Matt Fratus
Army vs. Navy

The 2022 Army vs. Navy college football game features uniforms that pay tribute to each team's legacy. Army is honoring the "Iron Soldiers" from 1st Armored Division. This year, Navy is honoring the 54 Naval Academy graduates who became astronauts with NASA. Photos courtesy of the US Army and US Navy. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.

On the bucket list of every die-hard college football fan is attending an Army vs. Navy game.

The annual matchup between the Army Black Knights of the United States Military Academy at West Point and the Navy Midshipmen of the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis promises a stadium atmosphere unlike anything else. Common features include military flyovers, parachute demonstrations by Navy SEALs and Green Berets, and usually an appearance by the commander-in-chief himself. In fact, 10 sitting US presidents have attended the Army-Navy Game over the years, beginning with Teddy Roosevelt in 1901.

For players and fans, the game is bigger than football and bragging rights. It is both a landmark event and a celebration of American military history. This fact is reflected in the designs of each team’s uniforms.

For example, this year, the Army players will take the field in jerseys and helmets designed to honor the “Iron Soldiers'' of the 1st Armored Division. The debut of the tank-inspired uniforms will coincide with the 80th anniversary of Operation Torch, the famous Allied invasion of North Africa during World War II.

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In 2021, Army teamed up with Nike to honor soldiers from Special Forces Command, left. Navy's uniforms honored the legacy of Naval Aviation and the F/A-18 Super Hornet. Photos courtesy of the US Army and US Navy. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.

Meanwhile, the Navy teamed up with NASA to create a uniform that pays tribute to the 54 US Naval Academy graduates who have become astronauts. As with the Army’s jerseys, the Navy’s serve as a reminder of past accomplishments and a nod to those to come. Upon graduation, the players will leave behind their football pads to become newly commissioned officers. Many will go on to have successful military careers, maybe even with the same storied units and commands they once represented on the gridiron.

Never watched the Army-Navy Game before? Not sure which side to root for?

Perhaps pick the one that is most relevant to your family history. For example, if your uncle served in the 101st Airborne, go with the Army. If your uncle served in the 101st Airborne but is also an asshole, the Navy might be your team. Or just flip a coin.

Once that’s settled, grab a bag of Doritos and a 24-pack of Natural Light and get ready for the big show. This year’s match is on Dec. 10. The cadets shout, “Go Army, Beat Navy,” while the midshipmen scream, “Go Navy, Beat Army.” Here’s everything else you need to know.

Related: After 7 Years in the NFL, Decorated Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva Retires

Where Is the Army vs. Navy Game Played?

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Pilots assigned to the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, perform a flyover prior to kickoff at the NCAA football game between the U.S. Naval Academy (Navy) and the U.S. Military Academy (Army) at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Terrence Siren.

The 2022 Army vs. Navy game will be held at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Philly has hosted 89 of the 122 Army-Navy games that have taken place since the two sides first squared off in 1890. This is because the City of Brotherly Love is located in “neutral territory.” Roughly halfway between West Point and Annapolis, it therefore does not give one side or the other a home field advantage.

Throughout the years, a number of cities have hosted the Army-Navy Game and for various reasons. Between 1913 and 1931, the game was played 11 times in New York City. Nine of those were played at Polo Grounds in Upper Manhattan and two at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Both sides agreed that playing at the New York Yankees’ two home arenas would draw more attention to the game and likely increase attendance.

Outside of the 1926 game at Soldier Field in Chicago and the 1983 tilt in California's Rose Bowl, the rivalry has played out in eastern cities, such as Philadelphia.

Beginning in 2023 and over the next five years, the Army vs. Navy game will be played in five cities. According to Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk, the goal is to extend the economic benefits and rich tradition of Army-Navy football to more communities. The five cities are Foxborough, Massachusetts; Landover, Maryland; Baltimore, Maryland; East Rutherford, New Jersey; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Related: SEAL Team Commander Killed in Training, Tribute Planned at Army-Navy Football Game

When Is the Army vs. Navy Game Played?

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In 2011, the 112th Army–Navy Game saw Navy's 10th consecutive win. Wikimedia Commons photo.

For decades, the annual Army vs. Navy game took place at either the end of November or the beginning of December. Since 1945, when the game first started being televised, broadcasting agreements have ensured that the games follow a more rigid schedule. In 2008, the two teams secured a 10-year broadcasting agreement with CBS requiring the games to be played on the second Saturday of December. The agreement was extended from 2018 to 2028.

The stadiums picked for the next five Army-Navy games all belong to teams in the National Football League. The 2022 matchup — which kicks off at 3 p.m. EST on Saturday, Dec. 10 — will be played at the Philadelphia Eagles’ Lincoln Financial Field. Gillette Stadium, the home turf of the New England Patriots, will host the game the following year.

Related: From World War I to Vietnam, These 4 Veterans Won Olympic Gold Medals While Serving Their Country

Who Has More Wins: Army or Navy?

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Fans celebrate Army's win after the Army-Navy Game at M&T Bank Stadium, in Baltimore. Army won the game 21-17 and broke the Navy's 14 game unbeaten winning streak in the fierce service academy rivalry. Wikimedia Commons photo

Since 1890, the Army-Navy Game has been played 122 times. The Navy leads the matchup with a record of 62 wins, 53 losses, and seven ties. The Army’s record is 53-62-7. The Navy’s longest win streak occurred between 2002 and 2015.

Notably, the Army-Navy Game is not the only occasion when the armed forces play each other in football. The Army-Navy Game is one of three service academy games played annually. The other two are Army vs. Air Force and Navy vs. Air Force.

Before 1972, Army, Navy, and Air Force weren’t committed to annually scheduled games. This changed mainly due to the ingenuity of Air Force Gen. George B. Simler. He proposed the creation of the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy to be awarded to the team with the best record of the series of games that season. Since the service academies rarely play in the national championship, this trophy has become an achievement to strive for.

If the final result of the records signified a tie at the end of the series, which has occurred on five occasions, the teams would share the trophy. As of 2021, Air Force leads the series with 21 wins. In second place is the Navy, with 16 wins. Army is last, with nine wins.

Related: Website for Army ‘Special Forces’ Football Uniforms Features a Lot of Air Force Dudes

How Many Army-Navy Players Were Awarded the Heisman Trophy?

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Roger Staubach won the Heisman Trophy in 1963. He later served during the Vietnam War as a supply officer and helped the Dallas Cowboys win two Super Bowls. Photos courtesy of Twitter/Wikimedia Commons.

The Heisman Trophy has been awarded annually since 1935 to the most outstanding player in US college football. It’s the highest individual honor each season, named after Hall of Fame head coach John Heisman. A panel of sports journalists and previous winners vote on who should receive the trophy. Of the 86 total Heisman Trophy winners, only five played for either Army or Navy.

The recipients are Felix “Doc” Blanchard, a junior fullback for Army (1945); Glenn Davis, a senior running back for Army (1946); Pete Dawkins, a senior running back for Army (1958); Joe Bellino, a senior running back for Navy (1960); and Roger Staubach, a junior quarterback for Navy (1963).

All three Army players went on to have prestigious military careers. Blanchard was commissioned in the US Air Force as a second lieutenant and flew 113 missions in the Vietnam War, retiring as a colonel in 1971. Davis served with the US Army during the Korean War and later played for the Los Angeles Rams on two championship teams. Dawkins became a career Army officer, leading men from the 82nd Airborne Division in combat during the Vietnam War.

Navy players Bellino and Staubach also found success beyond college football. Bellino played a three-year stint with the Boston Patriots and reached the rank of captain in the Navy Reserves. Staubach completed a yearlong tour to Vietnam as a supply officer. At 27, he joined the NFL as a rookie quarterback, leading the Dallas Cowboys to four Super Bowls with wins in 1972 and 1978.

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Editor’s note: This article has been updated to clarify the locations of past games.

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Matt Fratus
Matt Fratus

Matt Fratus is a history staff writer for Coffee or Die. He prides himself on uncovering the most fascinating tales of history by sharing them through any means of engaging storytelling. He writes for his micro-blog @LateNightHistory on Instagram, where he shares the story behind the image. He is also the host of the Late Night History podcast. When not writing about history, Matt enjoys volunteering for One More Wave and rooting for Boston sports teams.

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