Notre Dame vs. Navy: History Renewed

The longest uninterrupted intersectional rivalry in college football is renewed for the 86th time Saturday in Dublin, Ireland, when Notre Dame and Navy kick off at 9 a.m. ET (1 p.m. local time) in the Emerald Isle Classic at Aviva Stadium.

Aviva becomes the 13th different stadium – and second in Dublin — to host a game in the long-running rivalry. The previous meeting in Dublin, a 54-27 Irish victory on Nov. 2, 1996, was contested in Croke Park.  “Croker” as Dubliners call it, has hosted a variety of events over the years, including the Gaelic Games, Senior Hurling Championships, numerous concerts, and, perhaps of interest to ND fans, the closing ceremony of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in June of this year, during which Pope Benedict gave an address to approximately 80,000 people.

Aviva Stadium: Site of the 2012 Notre Dame-Navy game.

Aviva, with a smaller capacity of around 51,000, was built specifically for sports, and serves as the home field of the Irish rugby union team and the Republic of Ireland national football (soccer) team. It officially opened in May of 2010.

The ND-Navy series began in 1927 with a game in Baltimore, won 19-6 by Knute Rockne’s squad.  (The Notre Dame-Southern Cal series began a year earlier, in 1926, with a 13-12 Irish victory in Los Angeles, but ran into a three-year hiatus in 1943-45 due to World War II).

In last year’s game at Notre Dame Stadium, the Irish prevailed 56-14, reversing a trend in which the Midshipmen had won three of the previous four meetings. It brought ND’s advantage in the series to 72-12-1, and was the first year the participants were honored with the new Rip Miller Trophy.

If there is another college football series that has been played in as many locations, we would be shocked.  In addition to Croke and Aviva, the 11 other locations are:

  • Notre Dame Stadium, which has been the site of 32 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.
  • Seven games have been played at East Rutherford, New Jersey — old Giants Stadium hosted it six times from 1980 to 2004, and the new Meadowlands Stadium was the site of Navy’s 35-17 thrashing of the Irish two years ago.
  • In 1998, the teams met at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium (now FedEx Field) in Landover, Maryland. The Irish made a return visit there last season, defeating Maryland, 45-21.
  • The 2000 ND-Navy game was contested at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida, the Irish prevailing 45-14.

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 series has endured through the decades, and been a hallmark of honor, tradition and respect, because of a promise made during World War II. 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.

And Navy has always treasured that spot.  It is able to tell prospective Middies they will take on Notre Dame all four years they are at the Academy – with two trips to Notre Dame Stadium, and two other games played anywhere from Baltimore to Dublin.