Notre Dame and Navy have been “friends” now for 92 consecutive years, and the series operates under a gentleman’s agreement that it will go on indefinitely. The two programs share such mutual respect and admiration that the teams join together on the post-game field for the singing of each other’s Alma mater.
The friendship began in the late 1920s based on shared values of patriotism, loyalty and academic excellence. Oh, and it helped that they both played pretty good football.
In 1927 the first match up was announced with prophetic words from Notre Dame President Father Matthew Walsh that it was Notre Dame’s hope that the series with Navy would continue, “so long…as to become part of our best loved traditions.” As a Midshipman just might say, “Mission…. accomplished”!
By 1928, the game was already so popular that the teams played in front of what may have been the largest crowd in college football history, 120,000 at Soldier Field in Chicago.
Then, during World War II when most young men of college age were being drafted into the service, and when many schools were struggling to find students, the Navy established Notre Dame as a Naval training center. According to the late great University President Theodore Hesburgh this act saved the University from economic ruin, because by the end of World War II Notre Dame was thriving and had graduated over 12,000 naval officers. And Notre Dame has never forgotten Navy’s role in arguably saving the University, and now ND views the indefinite continuation of this football series as a small token of gratitude.
Now, it is true that on the field for most of the series history, the Irish have not been so friendly toward the Midshipmen, like when they won 43 straight from after Roger Staubach in 1963 through Charlie Weis in 2007.
But in the most recent era that tide has changed because Navy and the Navy option, which they run to precision, presents a difficult challenge for anyone, foe or friend.
And since 2003 on the field Navy has made more enemies than friends, as they have posted a record of 130-77, gone to 14 bowls, and won 7 of ‘em. A record that just about any football program would be proud of. And, this series between friends, that overall is still lopsided in favor of Irish, for the last 12 years has been marked by competitive cliffhangers, and 4 Navy wins.
This week 7-1 Navy brings their high-powered option offense, and a stingy defense to South Bend. Notre Dame looks to continue it’s momentum that started two weeks ago in the 4th quarter against Virginia Tech and grew during last week’s romp over Duke.
After the game these two programs will, out of honor, respect and tradition, stand together to sing their Alma maters as friends, but for 60 minutes on the field, you can expect intense, hard hitting football that will not be one bit friendly.