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Tradition Tuesday: Navy

Aug 28, 2012, 4:46 PM EDT

Though the rivalry with USC is perhaps Notre Dame’s most storied, the University’s history with Navy may be most important.

At Notre Dame, there is a deep sense of admiration and reverence for the dedication of the men and women in the armed forces. The mantra “God, Country, Notre Dame” is inscribed above the east door of the Basilica and it might as well be the unofficial motto of students and alumni. That short phrase is also the title of President Emeritus Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh’s autobiography.

During World War II, the Navy established a Navy College Training Program on Notre Dame’s campus, a decision that, according to Father Hesburgh, may have helped save the University. It boosted Notre Dame’s economic status and enrollment, saving the university from decline, amidst the ongoing war.

Since the days of the officer-training program, Notre Dame’s relationship with the U.S. Naval Academy has only grown stronger. The Navy ROTC unit is currently the largest on campus, and considered one of the top NROTC programs in the country.

2012 marks the 86th consecutive year that Notre Dame and Navy will meet on the football field. Playing every season since 1927, not only is this matchup the longest-running intersectional series in college football, it is also the longest in Notre Dame’s 125-year football history. In the previous meetings, 53 games have been played at neutral sites and 32 in Notre Dame Stadium. Neutral site contests have been held in several cities, including Cleveland, Baltimore, Philadelphia and East Rutherford, N.J., because Navy’s home stadium in Annapolis, Md., has not been large enough.

Though the Irish hold a 72-12-1 advantage in the series, the Midshipmen have taken three out of the last five meetings, including two in South Bend. In 2007, Navy shocked Notre Dame, 46-44 in triple overtime.

Previously, Notre Dame had won 43 straight against Navy, the longest such streak by one team over another in FBS history. Notre Dame had not lost to the Midshipmen since 1963, when future NFL Hall of Famer Roger Staubach was quarterbacking their offense.

On Saturday, the Irish and Midshipmen will meet in Dublin, Ireland for the second time. In 1996, the squads played at Croke Park, with Notre Dame winning, 54-27. This year’s game will be played at Aviva Stadium, which opened its doors in 2010.

Last season, the Irish scored eight touchdowns and limited Navy’s offense to 229 total yards, on their way to a 56-14 victory at Notre Dame Stadium.

Note: Excerpts from this post were first published on the UNDerground blog last season prior to the Navy game.

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