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The Army-Navy game has more riding on it than you think

The service academy college football teams play each other every year, despite playing in difference conferences. The series is one of very few triangular rivalries in college football. It features the U.S. Military Academy (Army Black Knights), the U.S. Naval Academy (Navy Midshipmen) and the U.S. Air Force Academy (Air Force Falcons).


President Barack Obama looks at the helmet given to him by the United States Naval Academy football team during the ceremony to present the Commander-in-Chief Trophy to the team in the East Room of the White House, April 12, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

The Navy–Air Force game is traditionally played on the first Saturday in October, with the Army–Air Force game on the first Saturday in November. The Army-Navy game is the biggest of the three, because it's the oldest of the three, first played in 1890 and annually since 1930. It's also the last in the series, played on the second Saturday in December and it often decides which academy gets the Commander-in-Chief's trophy.

The trophy itself is almost three feet high and weighs 170 lbs. It is awarded to the service academy with the best inter-service football record.

The Commander-in-Chief's Trophy, on the Air Force side.

While there are many trophies in college football rivalry, there are only two teams invited to the White House and congratulated by the President every year: the national championship team and the service academy who wins the Commander-in-Chief's trophy.

President Reagan presenting Army with the 1984 trophy.

Since Nixon began the annual contest between the three academies in 1972, it's been a slugfest on the field when these teams play throughout the season, even if the teams themselves haven't performed so well. Besides, it's not just about trophies, it's about service pride.

President George W. Bush congratulates the Navy football team during the Commander In Chief's trophy ceremony at the White House Rose Garden. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Journalist Alan J. Baribeau)

Air Force is the all-time leader in wins, with 19. Navy is a close second with 14, and a likely win in 2015. The longest streak also belongs to Navy, who held it for seven years from 2003 until 2010. Army only won 6 times since 1972 and the last President to present Army with a trophy was President Bill Clinton in 1996.