A new page in the long history of intercollegiate football will be written tomorrow with the meeting between the Naval Academy Midshipmen and the Cadets of West Point.
It all began in 1890 when 15 Mids worked their way up along the Hudson River to West Point and challenged their counterparts to something called a football game.
There were few rules, a lightly marked field, little equipment, unfamiliar officials and few spectators.
The Mids, captained by Charles Emrich, had been playing a form of football since a 0-0 tie with the Baltimore Athletic Club in 1879 without a coach. Army's cadets had never heard of football and were beaten, 24-0.
A year later in 1891, Army returned the visit to Annapolis and ran off a 32-16 victory against new coach Edgar A. Poe's squad. It was Poe's only season as the Mids' coach. A Mid wrote that year in an Academy publication that "the contest with West Point is the only important game of our seven-game season." The tradition had begun.
And so through the years the heated rivalry continued, halted temporarily during World War I in 1917 and 1918 and in 1928 and 1929 when Congress decided that the game was "too rough."
Navy and Army played each other for a shot at the mythical national championship on Dec. 2, 1944, when six All-Americans from Army ("Doc" Blanchard, Glenn Davis, Joe Stanowicz, John Green, Doug Kenna and Barney Poole) and three from Navy (Ben Chase, Bobby Jenkins and Don Whitmire) took the field in old Baltimore Stadium in a game won by Army, 23-7. Voted into the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame at a later date were Blanchard, Davis, Green and Poole from Army and Navy's Whitmire and Clyde Scott.
That game more or less brought on the end of an era when football stars from other universities were permitted to play for the academies. Navy's Whitmire and Chase, for example, had starred for Alabama's Orange Bowl champions.
So many games and so many participants of national renown have played in this game that it is difficult to single out any one game or set of outstanding players that characterize this rivalry.
Tomorrow, names such as Zuluaga, Kubiak, Dixon, Stramanak, Hickman, Van Matre, Speed, Lane, Hart and Favors will take their place in the Navy record books with the likes of Hamilton, Cutter, Bories, Ingram, Bellino, Staubach, McCullum, Byrne, Cartwright, Wickhorst, Scott and Beagle, who played such major roles in fashioning the spirit and stature of this game.
As has been proven time and again in past years, the records of the two teams coming into this game mean little or nothing. Navy has improved from 1-10 in 1992 to 4-6 this year and Army from 4-6 to 5-5.
For the first time in 12 years, Navy could capture the coveted Commander-In-Chief's Trophy with a win or a tie, having beaten Air Force, 28-21, while Army lost to the Falcons, 25-6.
Football enthusiasts will have an interesting day contrasting Army's vaunted wishbone attack coached by Bob Sutton to Navy's wide-open offense, which features a better-than-average passing attack.
The wishbone consistently has kept Army among the national leaders in rushing average.
The wide-open attack is what Navy has been running out of to date. With coach George Chaump in command at Navy, no new offensive set would surprise followers unless he installed the old single-wing, which is not very likely.
Who could forget, however, a year ago at Notre Dame when Navy came out in the wishbone and scared the Irish to death for a half?
Game time is set for noon with the Brigade of Midshipmen marching on at 9:45 a.m. followed by the Corps of Cadets at 10:15 a.m. ABC will televise the game.