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Army Navy Football: What the game means to college football

The Army-Navy football game demonstrates a perfect balance of the most pure aspects of college football: rivalry and love of the game.

Army v Navy Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Against All Enemies staff has been putting on a show with the series of “What the Army-Navy Game means to___”. So far we have discussed what this game means to:

  1. The Students
  2. The Schools
  3. The Alumni
  4. The Service Branches

Now, we will explain what the Army-Navy Game means to college football as a whole. We first will lay down some basics about the way college football is today and then explain how the Army and Navy teams hold onto the purity of college football.

Despite what anyone believes about whether college athletes should be paid, the fact of the matter is they are not. By default, they are amateur athletes who are playing for both, the love of the game, and a potential chance to get paid to play the sport later on in their career.

Army v Navy Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

In college football, this reality is often lost due to the massive amounts of monetary transactions that are made throughout the season. The sponsorships, the TV contracts, etc. From the opening weeks of the season, all the way to the College Football Playoff, money is a driving factor for nearly all involved.

However for one lone Saturday, in early December, money is hardly the focus.

The Army-Navy football game is about so much more.

The Army-Navy game comes on a day where there is no other college football or NFL football on television. And for that day, we are all reminded what college football is all about: sportsmanship, love of school, and competitive rivalry.

Army v Navy Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

For the love of the game

For the players on the field, the game is being played for the shear passion of the game and pride of school. None of the players are out there are playing with the intention of one day being a star in the NFL.

For the vast majority of the players, they are simply grateful to have an extended opportunity to play the sport they’ve grown up loving.

And although it may not seem like it, this is true for over over 90 percent of college football players. Every Saturday, sidelines are filled with student-athletes who will play their last football in college and know they will never lace up the cleats competitively after their senior year. So the Army Black Knights and Navy Midshipmen as a whole are a group of players who represent what many of other college players do every Saturday.

Additionally, the players in this game are the perfect example of what it means to play for the team that is on the front of their jersey, vice the name on the back. These players show up to their schools as young 17 or 18 year olds excited to continue their football career. But soon after getting to campus, they are fully invested in their teams and everything that organization stands for. With the service academies, this means much more than most universities. However college football players all over the country do the same with their schools, buying into the culture that is already established with that team.

In the NFL, these truths are not nearly as magnified due to its professional nature. And therefore, the Army-Navy game alone reminds the entire college football world of the amateurism that still remains in this level of the sport. Ironically the game is played just before the bowl games begin and players are given hundreds of dollars worth of bowl gifts.

Army v Navy Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

A beautiful rivalry

The Army-Navy rivalry began on November 29, 1890 with a 24-0 win for Navy. Since then, this game has become one of the best rivalry games in all of sports. The game features two universities, whose student bodies are sworn enemies. The entire college football season, for both teams, rest almost solely upon the outcome of this game.

This is true for so many other teams in the sport. Auburn versus Alabama. USC versus UCLA. However, with these other teams, there is more beyond the rivalry. A conference championship, bowl game, playoff, etc. But, the Army-Navy Game is these team’s Super Bowl. Post-season games come second to the Army-Navy Game in terms of importance for these teams.

This game puts on display the most pure rivalry in all of sports.

On December 8th, Navy and Army will face off in 119th edition of the Army-Navy Game. On this day, the people watching will forget about all the drama that comes with college football players who are on their way to the NFL. They will forget about bowl games with the most random corporate sponsors. The viewers will be reminded what college football is all about by the overwhelming passion that will be displayed on the field.

On another level, the fans and students from each school highlight how extreme the rivalry extends. The fans will endure the harsh conditions often present at the game in love and support for their team. In snow and sleet, the fans stay outside from whistle to whistle screaming their lungs out for their squad.

Furthermore, from coast to coast, people wearing Army or Navy gear will hear cheers of “Go Navy, Beat Army” or vice versa from strangers. By nature of the military being widespread across the world, the rivalries extend to every continent. And when they say “Go Army” they are referring to THIS GAME!

And finally, as the game comes to a close, and the winner has been decided, both teams run over to their respective school’s student section, they sing, TOGETHER, each other’s Alma Mater. Naturally, the team who wins gets to “sing second” and jump up in the crowd with their schoolmates.

This, is what college football is meant to be.

The Army-Navy game is the perfect example of all that is college football.

The author, Gavin Jernigan, was a member of the Navy Football team from 2012-2016. He graduated from Annapolis in 2016 and commissioned as a Marine Corps Aviator.