This year, on December ninth in Philadelphia, the Army Black Knights and the Navy Midshipmen will go head-to-head for the 118th time, marking the end of the regular college season.
But what do you really know about this storied NCAA football rivalry? Here are some facts to fill you in.
There have been 10 times that the game hasn’t been played.
According to the US Army website, the longest pause in the game was from 1894 to 1898, when an argument between a Navy admiral and an Army general nearly resulted in a duel following the 1893 game. In 1909 the remainder of the Army season was canceled after a player died from an injury sustained in the October game against Harvard. And twice during World War I, in 1917 and 1918, the games were canceled by order of the War Department. The other two canceled games, in 1928 and 1929, were because the academies couldn’t reconcile player eligibility standards.
The Army mule mascot goes way back.
The Army mule mascot tradition goes all the way back to 1899, when an officer decided that, because the Navy had a goat, the Army team needed a mascot of its own. He picked the white mule that was pulling the ice wagon.
The first “official” mule was a former pack mule named Mr. Jackson that arrived at West Point in 1936. Since that time there have been 17 official Army mules. Today, three mules share the responsibility of mascot: Raider, Ranger II and General Scott.
Even rivals can find common ground.
In a show of solidarity and mutual respect, all of the players sing both teams’ alma maters at the end of the game. First the winning team, then the losing team, face each other’s students in the stands to sing with them.
Giving new meaning to “safety first.”
In 1893 a Navy doctor told Midshipman (and later Admiral) Joseph Mason Reeves that another kick to his head would result in intellectual disability or even death. So Reeves commissioned a local shoemaker to make him a helmet out of leather. He wore it in the 1893 Army-Navy game, making him the first player in the league to wear a helmet.
Bill the Goat wasn’t always the Navy mascot.
Navy’s Bill the Goat is a bona fide live goat. There’s a bronze statue of him in the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, but Bill’s the real deal. But the first Navy mascot was the Navy Monkey, which was, in reality, a gorilla, and served from 1847-1851. The monkey was the favorite animal of US Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft, who established the Naval Academy in 1845. Bill the Goat didn’t appear until 1893, but has reigned ever since. Currently, Bill XXXIII is in charge.
It’s easy to show your Midshipmen pride no matter where you go in Navy gear. We have hats, t-shirts, hoodies and more.
Or maybe you’re a Black Knight, so some Army stuff is in order. Don’t worry, we have plenty of clothes and accessories, plus some stuff for your barbecue, too.