Notre Dame vs. Navy – a 91-year-old Football Experience


Photo by Grace Anne McKenna

Grace Anne McKenna, Editor in Chief

I flew out to South Bend, Indiana with my family to witness the historical Notre Dame v. Navy football game in November. As Notre Dame offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey put it, this game is a “tradition like no other.”

This game was not an ordinary one. It was an occasion that Notre Dame fans from all over the country experienced. The night before the game, I witnessed a news reporter interviewing a woman whose relatives were flying in from New York, Georgia and Pennsylvania. Like my uncle had said all weekend, “This is a bucket list game.”

The first Notre Dame v. Navy game occured in 1927. The Fighting Irish dominated 19-6 in Baltimore. Soon, this game would develop into a 91-year-old rivalry with the help of World War II.

Since the 1940s, the University of Notre Dame and the United States Naval Academy have had a close relationship. In the midst of World War II, Notre Dame believed they were going to have to shut down the University due to low enrollment of less than 3,000 students. This was during the war, when almost every young male citizen was drafted. Very few young men attended college and if they did, it was after they returned home. Notre Dame was also an all-male school at the time, unlike today.

The Naval Academy selected the University of Notre Dame to run its V-12 Navy College Training Program, the ROTC program for Midshipmen.They also sent thousands of dollars to the University, which was crucial to the well being of Notre Dame.

To return the favor, Notre Dame maintained the ROTC program during the Vietnam War, when many colleges shut theirs down.

“All I can say is without the Navy during the war, this institution would have gotten down to a few hundred students,” former Notre Dame president Theodore Hesburgh said in 2004 according to sbnation.

At the end of the game, which Notre Dame won 24-17 to improve its record to 9-2, the sight of 2 brothers emanated the true meaning behind the schools’ friendship. One brother was from Notre Dame, the other from Navy. After putting their heart and soul into their teams’ gridiron effort they walked off the field shoulder to shoulder.

This camaraderie between these two great universities has lasted for nearly a century, and we are reminded of it each year at the traditional Notre Dame v. Navy football game.