The Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy is one of the most prestigious awards in college football. Its capture signifies success but is also the ultimate measuring stick for sacrifice, selflessness, and bravery.
Its standing and format are almost unique, but who gets the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy and what are some of the traditions behind this piece of college football history?
Who Gets the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy?
Unlike the shiny prize of most college football rivalries, the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy isn’t awarded to the victor of a singular head-to-head rivalry. A triangular series takes place every year — one of just two such annual series in college football — between the Army Black Knights, the Navy Midshipmen, and the Air Force Falcons.
How is the winner of the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy crowned? Well, each team faces the other once in the season and the winner of the most games takes home the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy.
If the series is tied, with all three teams holding a 1-1 record, then it is declared a shared series. However, the previous year’s winner gets to retain the actual trophy. Air Force has won the trophy the most times (21), followed by Navy (16), and finally Army (9).
The format for the annual rivalry is always the same. Air Force plays Navy in October, followed by a game with Army in November. The final game of the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy is the stand-alone matchup between the Army and Navy.
What is the Tradition Around the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy?
The Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy has been a traditional staple of the college football calendar since its formulation in 1972. Started by Air Force General George B. Simler, it has become everything that he envisioned when he dreamed up an annual competition between the three service academies with the most substantial football presence.
Since then, several Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy traditions have been maintained.
Air Force plays one home and one road game each year, rotating between welcoming the Navy to Falcon Stadium in even-numbered years, and the Army in odd-numbered years. There have been some exceptions, but as a rule, that tradition has been maintained.
Named after the President of the United States and their role as the head of the U.S. military services, it has been tradition for the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy to be awarded by the sitting president in some years. This has at times taken place at the White House and also at the annual Army-Navy game.
Significance of the Army-Navy Game?
While the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy features the three major service academies, the Army-Navy Game has its special place in the heart of college football. The final game of the triangular series each year, it also stands alone on the college football calendar in the final week of the season, ensuring that it holds the full attention of fans around the world.
The rivalry game between Army and Navy, arguably the most hated in all of college football with the familiar “Go Army, Beat Navy” and “Go Navy, Beat Army” chant adorning every correspondence you’ll ever have with the combatants, has been played annually since 1930. The first game took place in 1890.
The Army-Navy game, the final one of the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy triangular series, has been held in 10 different cities, across 18 different stadiums. There have been 123 editions of this great game, and the Navy holds a 62-54-7 head-to-head advantage after a long streak of success from 2022 to 2015.
Yet numbers don’t do justice to the full significance of the Army-Navy game. To do that, flick on your television on the second Saturday of December, watch and listen to the various stories of bravery, service, and sacrifice told by the people closest to them, and then watch the two teams go to war between the white lines in one of sports greatest spectacles.