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irish insider

Adams: If you want Navy off the schedule, get over yourself

| Friday, November 15, 2019

Every Notre Dame football season features a few matchups between the Irish and their rivals. Whenever those games rear their heads, it brings to mind memories of games and seasons gone by.

Whenever the Irish gear up for archrival USC, the older generation may remember when the Trojans spoiled Notre Dame’s title hopes in 1964 by overcoming a 17-0 halftime deficit to win 20-17, or in 1970 when they beat the championship-hopeful Irish 38-28 despite a reigning school-record 526 passing yards from Joe Theismann. Some will remember the “Bush Push” game in 2005, while others may remember the 2017 beatdown of USC in South Bend or the two times they capped a 12-0 season with wins in Los Angeles.

Zachary Yim | The Observer

Irish senior quarterback Ian Book takes a snap during Notre Dame’s 38-7 victory over Duke on Nov. 7 at Wallace Wade Stadium.

As Notre Dame prepares to face Stanford, fans can conjure memories of late-season collapses by the Irish in 2015 and 2017 or the controversies surrounding the Stanford Band when they played at Irish-Cardinal games in 1991 and 1997. And, of course, against Michigan, fans remember Raghib “Rocket” Ismail returning two punts for touchdowns, Desmond Howard’s crazy fourth-down touchdown catch in 1991 or the recent beatdowns of each other in 2014 and 2019.

However, the one that often gets lost in the shuffle, despite the angst it brings to many Irish fans when they see it on the schedule, is Navy — the team Notre Dame won 43-straight games against from 1964 to 2006 (an NCAA record for consecutive wins over a single team). Many know at least the basics of how the annual series was formed: Naval cadets were sent to Notre Dame’s campus during World War II in order to keep the University afloat as students left to help the war effort. Many may not know, however, that in the midst of the Vietnam War, several institutions abolished their ROTC programs, but Notre Dame didn’t because of what Navy had done for them.

“We said they’re going to stay on campus,” former Notre Dame President Father Ted Hesburgh said. “This is their home, too. They’re here, and they’re welcome and they’re going to stay here.”

Hesburgh also had something to say about the talk, even back in his day, that the series should be canceled.

“If there’s any relationship that we have in athletics that has really held up over the years, it’s the Navy,” Hesburgh said. “People said, ‘Well, Navy has a terrible team,’ and I said, ‘I hate to be winning all the time, but there were days when they won back in the glory days.’ It has always been cordial.”

On that note, anyone who thinks Notre Dame should cancel the Navy series because of how overmatched the Midshipmen are should chill out. First, they’re not as overmatched as the 76-13-1 series record may suggest (as will be addressed below). Second, I’m from Kentucky, so I’ve rooted for a team that lost 31-straight years to Florida. No one talked about dropping UK from the Gators’ schedule. Playing Navy is a tradition, and I’m not saying all traditions need to remain constant, but this one should.

Still, the majority of people who are against the series probably subscribe to the belief that it’s a constant threat to Notre Dame as a trap game. At this point, Navy is not a trap game. EVERYONE knows how big of a pain in the rear it is to play against the triple option when it’s executed perfectly like it is at Navy. Even so, Navy has never spoiled Notre Dame’s season like USC has. There have been some close calls, but for the most part, the Irish take care of business, even if Navy has achieved four of their 13 series wins in the last 12 seasons. Plus, whining and complaining about this game being a threat to the Irish is such a soft mentality. Don’t make excuses; the Irish SHOULD beat Navy, so let them go out there and prove themselves.

My final argument for why we should keep Navy on the schedule is moralistic: It’s simply the right thing to do. I don’t deign to disrespect Navy by saying we’re doing them a favor by continuing to play them. In fact, regardless of how they perform or the final result, this game has very few implications for either team in terms of recruiting and, admittedly, rankings (although, this is an under-the-radar top-25 matchup), and it’s not because it’s between two nobodies.

Notre Dame arguably has the most storied tradition in college football and Navy is highly respected, as they should be, for the job they do educating and training our future servicemen and servicewomen. It’s the most unique intersectional game because of how different it is from any other rivalry. To quote Sommy Martinez of Slap the Sign, “It’s a game rich in tradition, one of the very few where the ‘rivalry’ is actually mutual respect, admiration and appreciation.”

Attending a Notre Dame-Navy game, while not the most entertaining to watch, is an incredible experience to be a part of, especially for the men and women of the armed forces who get to attend Navy’s “home games” around the country near various naval bases. No Notre Dame or Navy fans should be deprived of that opportunity.

In conclusion, if you’re that worried about Notre Dame dropping a game to Navy and losing ground either in the national rankings or the court of public opinion, you need to get over yourself. If Notre Dame is what they claim to be, they’ll take care of business against Navy. Anybody who thinks losing to Navy sets the program back is incredibly misinformed, whereas the more knowledgeable sports minds know that beating the triple option consistently is an impressive feat.

When these teams play, there is a sense of recognition for the accomplishments of each program and the esteem they hold one another in. The revelry is an experience that can’t be missed. So get comfortable Irish fans, because the Midshipmen don’t seem to be going anywhere, and that’s the way it should be.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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