Navy weekend traditions honor deep history between institutions
Gabby Beechert | Friday, November 5, 2021
Notre Dame faces off against Navy in Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday in the 94th edition of one of the most storied rivalries in college football. The schools met for the first time in 1927, and until last year, the matchup was the longest continuous intersectional rivalry in the country. The teams were scheduled to meet in Dublin during the 2020 season, but the game was canceled because of the pandemic.
Notre Dame currently leads the series 79-13-1. Even though the Irish have historically dominated on the field, the two institutions hold each other in high regard after they established a deep-rooted respect for each other in the wake of World War II, according to a Notre Dame News article.
In 1942, Notre Dame was struggling financially, and with many students enlisted in the military, enrollment was very low, according to the article.
Navy was able to remedy Notre Dame’s financial woes by turning the institution into a training center for V-12 candidates, according to the Navy Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (NROTC) website. Navy paid Notre Dame to use its facilities, providing a necessary financial boost, the article said.
In exchange for the aid from the Naval Academy, the Irish display their gratitude to the Midshipmen by continuing the rivalry, the article said.
Saturday marks the first time the teams are meeting since Nov. 2019. In honor of the game, the NROTC members are participating in several traditions.
On the Friday before the game, NROTC members partake in the Navy Ball to celebrate the birthday of the Navy and Marine Corps, sophomore and MIDN 3/C Kevin Sembrot said. The ball is a ceremonial event between current Midshipmen, staff and a guest speaker.
Sembrot said this year’s guest of honor Lt. Gen. Matthew Glavy.
The cake cutting ceremony is the biggest tradition at the Navy Ball, MIDN 3/C and sophomore Daniel McKenna said. The ceremony honors past and future members of the Navy by serving the first slice to the oldest sailor, who in the case of this year’s ball happens to be the guest of honor.
“The oldest sailor at the ball cuts the cake first and has the first slice to signify the respect for our predecessors,” McKenna, who is in charge of this year’s ball, said. “Then the youngest sailor receives the second slice of cake to signify the ushering in of younger generations and taking care to develop them into the Navy’s future leaders.”
After the ceremony, the freshmen from each of the three companies — Alpha, Bravo and Charlie — participate in a dance off.
Some NROTC members will participate in the halftime show with Navy. Donned in their service dress blue uniforms, NROTC members will display the flag on the field during the halftime show, sophomore Samantha Nagel said. They will also be on the field while servicemen and women are being honored.
After the cancellation of last year’s game, many students said they are excited to host the Midshipmen once again, recognizing that Notre Dame’s rivalry with Navy holds more significance than most football weekends. Both teams participate in the singing of the other team’s alma mater after the game, a tradition that has lasted many years.
“We at Notre Dame are instilled with service to our country with the phrase ‘God, Country, Notre Dame,‘“ junior Gabe Gelke said. “Our relationship with the Naval Academy and this game exemplify that.”