clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

#TBT with Army-Navy: More than a football game

This Saturday is America’s game....and so much more

NCAA Football: Army vs Navy Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The United States Military Academy at West Point will compete in NCAA football against the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis.

That sounds awful. But, if you say, “It’s the Army-Navy game” it is a lot simpler and says it all.

On Saturday in Philadelphia, Army and Navy will square off for the 118th time. The game dates back to the first contest in 1890.

For Rutgers, there have been 65 meetings combined against the two service schools. In comparison, it has played Air Force just twice, and is 1-1.

Rutgers has a winning record against both academies, although the series didn’t start on a positive note. The scarlet played both Army and Navy for the first time in 1891. The Cadets won, 27-6 while the Middies earned a 20-12 victory. Since then, though, Rutgers has a 22-18 edge over Army and a slim 13-11-1 margin over Navy.

The last time RU met the Cadets was at Michie Stadium at West Point, winning 31-21 on Sept. 21, 2015. Rutgers won its last game against Navy in 2014, a 31-24 win at Annapolis. And it was in 2011 that Rutgers last played both teams in the same year; Rutgers won both during a 9-4 season, Greg Schiano’s last as coach of the Knights. The Army game was at Yankee Stadium.

As of right now, there are no future games scheduled between Rutgers and either academy. Not so with Army-Navy. In fact, they have the sites chosen through 2022, including a Dec. 11, 2021 date at MetLife Stadium.

Navy leads the series 60-50-7, with the first Army-Navy football game played on Nov. 29, 1890 on "The Plain" at West Point. Navy started playing football in 1879 and defeated the newly established Army team, 24-0. Army won last year to break a 14 game win streak for the midshipmen. So, as we did for our Rutgers Throw Back Thursday feature, let’s look back - with visual assistance - at a few games from this incredible series.


The cover has a quote from Gen. Douglas MacArthur which epitomizes what the game means: “Upon the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds that on other days, on other fields will bear the fruits of victory.” We battle today, learning the life lessons needed to be officers. Army won, 11-8, at the newly renamed John F. Kennedy Stadium. A side note from the year before: JFK’s widow, Jacqueline, insisted that the game be played despite the president’s assassination just days before.


Nothing really special about the game, a 34-14 Navy win, except for one of the players for Army.

The fullback, number 31, is Donald Parcells from Oradell, NJ. Name sound familiar? Yeah, that’s Bill Parcells’ younger brother.

And the real story is not that he was related to a pretty famous football guy. It’s that Bill Parcells was related to a pretty famous military guy. Lets not forget that the young men who play in this game will become commissioned officers and defend this nation. Just like Donald Parcells. Because after he played football, Parcells made captain, served in combat in Vietnam, and earned two Bronze Stars for Valor, the Army Commendation Medal, two Air Medals, and the Purple Heart. Football was an extracurricular.


They are the service academies and, at this time, the only two (The Air Force Academy was established in 1954 but wouldn’t graduate its first class until 1959...I know, more history). And, as you might expect, patriotism and patriotic themes abounded. As on this cover. Navy won, 27-20.


Three years removed from war. A time of growth and fun and the cover of the program reflected that.

And it resulted in the third tie in the series’ history, a 21-21 deadlock.


The game had been played continuously since 1930, and not even World War II could stop it. Only six Army-Navy games were played on the campus of either academy, two of those during World War II in 1942 and 1943. But the close of the war saw the game back in Philly after a one year stint in Baltimore. And it was during this era and through around 1950, that the academies, especially Army, had their greatest success. In both 1944 and 1945, Army and Navy entered the game ranked #1 and #2 respectively. The 1945 game was labeled the "game of the century" before it was played. Army won, 32-13, topping a 7–0–1 Navy team. And what a great game program cover!


This game, a 14-7 Cadet win, has no special meaning. The cover art is very flamboyant and typical of the day, the artwork by prominent artist Howard Chandler Christy. There is turmoil in Europe, but it hasn’t yet impacted America. And we are a year away from the beginning of World War II.

Which means that many, if not all, of the players in this game, within a few years would be at war. How many would be at Pearl Harbor? How many at Normandy? How many would cause their parents to display a gold star in the window?

On a small scale, I officiated an Army-Navy Sprint football game at Annapolis. It was the greatest game I ever worked. The band was there, the goat was there. Middies and cadets ringed the field. It came down to an onside kick in the closing seconds to finalize the outcome. And at the end, the players shook hands and stood at attention while each team’s Alma Mater was played. Wow!

Army-Navy. America’s Game. A tradition like no other.

Great stuff, great sayings.

And more importantly, great young men.

Go Army, best Navy!

Go Navy, beat Army!

Army-Navy Game Information

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia

Gates Open: 11:00 am

March-On: 12:15 pm

Kick-Off: 3:00 pm

TV Coverage: CBS

Radio Coverage: Westwood One (National)

For further Game Day Information, please click here.

One more note....

In recent years, Army and Navy have unveiled unique uniforms for this game. 2017 is no different. You can see each one by clicking on each team:

Navy uniform Army uniform