Notre Dame vs. Navy: America’s Rivalry

Notre Dame’s annual clash with Navy is the longest uninterrupted intersectional rivalry in college football. The Irish and Midshipmen meet for the 84th time in a series that began in 1927 with a 19-6 victory by Knute Rockne’s squad.

Saturday’s game at the new Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, will mark the 12th different stadium to host the rivalry, easily the most venues of any series involving the Irish. The 11 other locations:

–Notre Dame Stadium has been the site of 31 meetings, including ND’s 26-2 victory in the dedication of the Stadium on October 11, 1930. Only since 1953 has the series been hosted at the Stadium on an every-other-year basis.

–Baltimore Stadium (later named Municipal Stadium and, eventually, Memorial Stadium) hosted the game 19 times, from the initial meeting in 1927 through 1988.

–The three most recent meetings in Baltimore have been at the Ravens’ M&T Bank Stadium (2002, ’06, ’08).

–Chicago’s Solider Field hosted the 1928 game, a 7-0 ND victory played before a crowd estimated at 120,000.

–Cleveland Stadium, also known as Municipal Stadium, hosted 11 games from 1932 through 1952, plus 1976 and 1978.

–Philadelphia has been the site of nine games at two sites. Municipal Stadium, later renamed JFK Stadium, hosted the game six times from 1960 through 1970, and Veterans Stadium was the site of three games, in 1972, ’74 and ’93.

–Saturday’s game will be the seventh played at East Rutherford, as Giants Stadium hosted it six times from 1980 to 2004.

–The only Notre Dame game played on foreign soil was the 1996 Navy game at Croke Park in Dublin, Ireland. Dublin will also host the 2012 game, at new Aviva Stadium.

–In 1998, the teams met at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium (now FedEx Field) in Landover, Maryland. Next season, the Irish return there to meet Maryland.

–The 2000 ND-Navy game was contested at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida.

Notre Dame’s 43-game win streak in the series (an NCAA record) began with Ara Parseghian’s first team, in 1964, thumping the Middies, 40-0. It was a battle of the 1964 Heisman Trophy winner (ND’s John Huarte) and the 1963 winner (Navy’s Roger Staubach). A year earlier, Staubach led the No. 4 Middies to a 35-14 victory, the fifth win for Navy vs. ND in an eight-year stretch (1956-63).

The last four victories by Navy in the series have come at Notre Dame Stadium (1961, 1963, 2007, 2009). It’s been 50 years since Navy defeated ND at another site – a 14-7 victory at Philadelphia in 1960.

Why has the series endured, especially during times of total dominance by Notre Dame? Because of a promise made during World War II. As an all-male college, Notre Dame’s enrollment was severely impacted by the war, threatening its continued viability. The Navy stepped in, and made the Notre Dame campus a major training site, pouring considerable resources into ND. As a result, Notre Dame promised Navy there would always be a spot on the Irish football schedule, for as long as Navy wanted it.

Tradition and respect mark the rivalry between these schools with national imprints. It will be on display Saturday – an extremely hard-fought game, followed by the Irish standing at attention for Navy’s alma mater.

It’s what college football should be all about.