The Midshipmen of the U.S. Naval Academy will meet the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Oct. 27, 2018, for the next game in a 91-year-long rivalry. The Annapolis-South Bend rivalry is the second-longest uninterrupted rivalry in college football. But, unlike most college football rivalries, this is a game of mutual respect and admiration — and that’s why both schools love it so much.
When Navy plays Army, the mood in Annapolis is decidedly different. When Navy plays the Air Force Academy, it could mean the difference between a trip to the White House for the Commander-In-Chief Trophy and a trip to the locker room. Those rivalries are intense. Meanwhile, Notre Dame has a slew of other rivalries with Michigan, USC, and Stanford.
But Navy-Notre Dame is a serious one. It’s not a rivalry of burning hatred, it’s a nod to keeping good things going.
The 2012 matchup was played in Dublin, Ireland. The 2020 matchup will return to Dublin.
The game was played as planned throughout World War II and the needs of skilled men during the war is what kept Notre Dame going. When the United States was fully mobilized, the student body at Notre Dame’s South Bend, Ind. campus dwindled to just a few thousand, the number of students on campus during the Great Depression. When the U.S. Naval Academy started its Navy College Training Program on Notre Dame’s campus in 1943, that began to change. An influx of Navy students and military dollars poured into South Bend.
During the social upheaval that gripped American universities during the height of the Vietnam War, many colleges threw U.S. military ROTC offices off their campuses, but Notre Dame never forgot the debt they owed the U.S. Navy.
If the only yardstick of a great rivalry was snapping a team’s winning streak against the other, then Navy-Notre Dame wouldn’t have its place in the pantheon of college football rivalries. The Irish leads the series 75-13-1, including a 43-game winning streak after the Roger Staubach-led Midshipmen trounced the Irish 35-14 in 1963. Navy didn’t win another until 2007, winning 46-44 in triple overtime.
Notre Dame’s biggest losses came between 1956 and 1963, where Heisman winners Joe Bellino and Roger Staubach led the Midshipment to victory five times, by an average of more than 14 points per game. Since their 2007 upset win, Navy has won four of the last eleven games.
For two of the oldest football programs in the United States, the rivalry is a healthy, mutually beneficial competition that will no doubt endure for decades to come.