Army-Navy is already one of the biggest, oldest, and closest rivalries in college football. But this year’s meeting – which will be held at Gillette Stadium for the first time – will hold a little bit more weight.
In addition to the rivalry between the two Academies, they’re also part of one of only two three-way trophies annually awarded in college football. Along with Air Force, Army and Navy play for the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy. It’s awarded to whichever of the Academies beats the other two, or is retained by the previous winner if all three teams go 1-1 in their head-to-head matchups.
The CIC Trophy isn’t guaranteed to be up for grabs during the Army-Navy Game every year, since both teams play Air Force prior to meeting each other. That was the case last year, when Air Force swept Army and Navy on its way to capturing the trophy for a record 21st time.
Thanks to a major upset last weekend, that won’t be the case this year. Air Force had already beaten Navy 17-6 and was unbeaten heading into last Saturday’s matchup with Army. However, the Black Knights pulled off a 23-3 upset win in Colorado.
When Army takes the field on Dec. 9 at Gillette Stadium, it will have a chance to win the trophy outright for the first time since 2020 (the Black Knights also retained the trophy in 2021, but a loss to Navy prevented them from claiming back-to-back wins.
Since the CIC Trophy was established in 1972 (the first year all three teams started playing annually), Army has won nine times – the fewest of the three schools (Air Force has won it 21 times, Navy 16). Three of those wins came between 2017-2020, which ended a 20-year drought.
While the Midshipmen can’t win the trophy themselves (a Navy win means Air Force would retain it as the previous year’s winner), they still have a chance to play spoiler to their biggest rival. That’s what they did in 2021, but had failed to do the three previous times that Army had beat Air Force leading up to the game.
“The only taste sweeter than beating Army in any circumstances is beating Army to keep the CIC Trophy from returning to West Point,” recalls Patriots announcer Bob Socci, who prior to coming to New England in 2013 was the voice of Navy football for 15 seasons. “And no doubt, any time roles were or will be reversed, the feeling for the Cadets is no different.”
To highlight the importance of the trophy and what it represents, Socci shared a story of the Naval Academy’s 2003 win, snapping a 20-plus year drought.
“Throughout the 1990s, Air Force dominated the Commander-In-Chief’s series. But in [former Navy coach] Paul Johnson’s third season in Annapolis, Navy ended a six-game losing streak vs. the Falcons, led by future Patriot Kyle Eckel,” Socci notes. “The Midshipmen then blew out Army to capture the CIC Trophy for the first time since 1981.”
“When the trophy arrived in Annapolis, from what I recall, much of the luster had literally faded,” he recalled. “It wasn’t in exactly the best condition. Navy’s athletic director Chet Gladchuck had the trophy refurbished, before the Academy gave everyone involved in the program CIC Championship rings. It was the highest honor a service academy football team can achieve. And, after going so long without it, the Naval Academy treated it as such.”
With the game now a month away, let’s take a look at each team’s season so far, leading into the matchup…