ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The Brigade of Midshipmen will travel to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point this weekend for the 121st Army-Navy Game, the first time the game has been played at West Point since 1943.
Numerous modifications were made this year in order to ensure the health and safety of the Brigade and Corps of Cadets, who will be in attendance.
No tickets were sold for the game, and cadets, midshipmen and DoD leadership will be the only spectators in attendance. Since both schools have been operating with strict restriction of movement for the cadets and midshipmen — following all necessary COVID-19 protocols and testing, as well as performing contact tracing research and isolation and quarantine efforts — this travel effort is considered a “bubble to bubble” movement of the midshipmen from Annapolis to West Point. All cadets and midshipmen will be required to wear masks and socially distance during travel and in all areas on post at West Point and within the stadium.
Significant considerations were made by leadership at both schools, as well as by joint Army and Navy committees dedicated to the planning and execution of each maneuver and event surrounding the game, in an effort to safely and effectively retain as much of the storied Army-Navy game tradition as possible for the midshipmen and cadets.
The Army-Navy game has been played nearly every year since 1890 and during World War II with limited attendance in order to inspire a nation at war. When the nation has faced challenges and uncertainty, the game has continued. Following the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, the Academies discussed cancelling that year’s contest until urged by the Kennedy family to play the game, which featured Heisman Trophy recipient Roger Staubach leading the Navy victory, 21-15, on the 22nd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
This year, Secretary of the Navy Kenneth J. Braithwaite, USNA Class of 1984, highlighted the importance of this service academy tradition during recent testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Readiness and Management and identified that he, along with Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, working with the Chief of Naval Operations, Army Chief of Staff and the respective academy superintendents determined the game would take place, taking safety into account.
Midshipmen will travel to the game by bus, remaining in a socially-distanced seating arrangement while wearing masks. Additional travel details will not be released in consideration of security.
The Ball Run will be modified by both service academies. To complete the traditional relay of 143 miles, the approximate half-way point between the schools, midshipmen from the 13th Company will run 140 miles on the Yard, while the Army Marathon Team will do the same at West Point. The two teams will finish with a socially-distanced joint relay for the remaining three miles on Saturday morning at West Point. The ball runners will not “run” an actual game ball this year, but will present a symbolic game ball in its place before the start of the game.
Every effort was made to try and safely uphold as many traditional game-day events as possible. The pre-game events such as the flyovers and parachute jumpers are scheduled to take place (weather dependent). Events such as Patriot Games, the singing of the National Anthem, and the color guard presentation, will be modified or performed under strict COVID-19 protocols, to include additional testing of participants. The march on of the midshipmen and cadets will also take place and be modified for Michie Stadium and with COVID-19 protocols in mind.
Because the traditional semester exchange program between the two schools was not offered this fall due to COVID-19, the annual “prisoner exchange” that involves midshipmen and cadets to swap places back to their school of origin for the game will not take place.
In accordance with the COVID-19 event policies, the Naval Academy Pep Rally/Football Team Send-Off was not scheduled this year.
During the game, midshipmen will be seated in the stadium socially distanced by company and will wear masks. All personnel working the game at Michie Stadium are strictly required to obtain COVID-19 testing and results prior to arrival, and follow all health and safety protocols while on post.
Midshipmen are authorized to go on leave for the winter break no earlier than noon on Sunday, Dec. 13.