Photos show why Army-Navy is the greatest college football rivalry on Earth

Army Cadets salute after taking the field before the start of the Army Black Knights and Navy Midshipmen game at M&T Bank Stadium on December 13, 2014.

caption
Army Cadets salute after taking the field before the start of the Army Black Knights and Navy Midshipmen game at M&T Bank Stadium on December 13, 2014.
source
Rob Carr/Getty

On December 9, the US Naval Academy and US Military Academy football teams will meet on the gridiron for the 118th time. It is an annual game – and rivalry – steeped in tradition.

Amy Cadets and Navy Midshipmen played the first Army-Navy football game in 1890 at West Point, launching one of the most unique rivalries in college sports. Though fiercely competitive, the players participate in rituals, like singing the alma maters of both schools and swapping “prisoners” (students who spend a semester at the other school), as a sign of solidarity.

These photos, including some taken by a former student of the Naval Academy (Midshipman Second Class Jeffrey Martino), show why Army-Navy is the greatest football rivalry on Earth.


The Army-Navy game is the hallmark of one of the longest rivalries in college football.


The US Naval Academy and US Military Academy teams have played each other since 1890. The annual game was skipped twice during World War I (and several other times).


Both schools make travel arrangements to get each of their 4,000-plus students to the game. Most games are held at large stadiums far outside the schools’ campuses.

source
Jeffrey Martino

Attendance at the Army-Navy game is required of all students at the Naval Academy.

source
Jeffrey Martino

Game Day starts with a tradition known as the “march on.” Hours before the game, Army’s Corps of Cadets and Navy’s Brigade of Midshipmen file into formation outside the stadium.

source
Jeffrey Martino

They take turns marching onto the field. Here come the Army cadets.

source
Tommy Gilligan/Reuters

The Navy midshipmen look equally impressive.

source
Tommy Gilligan/Reuters

The view from the stands is spectacular.

source
Jeffrey Martino

After the marches, the students settle into the bleachers as the other spectators follow suit.

source
Rob Carr/Getty

Cadets and midshipmen must wear their dress blues — considered the “black tie” of the uniforms worn by the Armed Forces — the entire day.

source
Jeffrey Martino

Students are not allowed to bring any paraphernalia into the stands, although signs and sunglasses usually sneak in.

source
Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty

The signs are not what you’d expect to see at a college football game. These midshipmen waved a political cartoon depicting the American colonies as a fragmented snake.


The schools have an exchange program that allows students to spend a semester at an alternative service academy. Prior to kick-off, the schools hold a “prisoner exchange.”

source
Jeffrey Martino

Participating students meet on the field and then rush to sit with their respective academies for the duration of the game.

source
Rob Carr/Getty

A formation of US Army helicopters flies overhead, and service members from the Navy Leapfrogs and the Army Golden Knights parachute teams make a grand entrance.

source
Rob Carr/Getty

A glee club made up of cadets and midshipmen perform the National Anthem together before the game. It’s a way of showing that they play for the same team: Team USA.

source
Jeffrey Martino

Both student sections say the cheer, “U-S-A!”

source
Rob Carr/Getty

When the game is about to start, members of the Navy’s Brigade of Midshipmen shake their covers, or caps. Navy won 14 Army-Navy games in a row from 2002 to 2015.

source
Jeffrey Martino

In 2016, Army snapped its 14-game losing streak against Navy with a 21–17 victory.


Members of the student section known as “The Pit” cheer on the midshipmen.

source
Jeffrey Martino

The commander-in-chief has made an appearance at the Army-Navy game every year since President Theodore Roosevelt made it a tradition in 1901.

source
Rob Carr/Getty

The game ends with a tradition called “honoring the fallen.” Both teams turn to the stands containing the fans of the defeated team, and they sing that team’s alma mater.

source
Rob Carr/Getty

Then they turn to the other side and serenade the winning team’s fans with its alma mater.

source
Elsa/Getty

The players of the winning team rush to their school’s student section and climb into the stands, with help from their biggest fans.

source
Jeffrey Martino

The Army-Navy game is a spectacle worth seeing no matter whose side you’re on.