"When Army and Navy meet, there is no other game with deeper foundations or greater prestige."
How do you define the term "rivalry"?
The dictionary definition lists rivalry as "the act of competing or emulating". In sports, rivalries are judged by team against team, normally by the quality of both competitors, what's on the line each time the two square off, and what it means to the organizations and fans.
But the most important thing is how much the teams like each other. The average fan would specify that a "rivalry", which is defined as the act of competing or emulating is anything but. The average fan would justify that a rivalry game is the competition of two teams that dislike each other, or the competition of two teams that have storied traditions, rich histories, or title game aspirations.
In college football, though, the term rivalry might bear a bigger definition on how much respect and class the universities exemplify towards each other, whether it be on the field, off the field... or defending the great country that is the United States of America.
In my sincere opinion, the biggest rivalry in college football is the annual Army-Navy game. Meeting at neutral locations every year since 1890, this rivalry might just be the most evenly-matched and most consistently competitive match-up in all of not only college football, but sports in general.
The Navy Midshipmen currently hold a 52-49-7 series advantage over the Army Black Knights, which allows for Navy graduates and students some bragging rights they'll use to their advantage every slight chance they receive.
With the powers toning down in recent years, the game hasn't taken as big of a stage as it used to have back a few decades ago. When these teams matched up several decades ago, the National Championship was usually discussed, or on the line for these two rich programs.
Army has 3 total championships (1914, 1944, 1945), while Navy has one. (1926)
It isn't exactly as glitzy and glamor filled for these two programs on paper compared to the likes of Ohio State - Michigan and Southern California - Notre Dame, but there's many points to consider on why this rivalry is the best in the game.
For one, due to specific regulations administered and outlawed by both Universities, there are more guidelines instilled to ensure that the graduates and alumnus of the respective Universities are fully prepared for their duties following their scholastic careers in the Army or Navy.
For example, Navy is more tough academically to enroll into. We've seen many academic scandals and controversies in the past couple seasons, mainly involving players that were highly sought after out of high school. These players might not choose Navy because they realize and comprehend how difficult the challenges in the classroom are.
Army is a tough military school, and has a lot of discipline. This is the obvious reason that many high school seniors turn away from committing to the Army program, because they want to experience full campus life when they are in college... and going to Army just doesn't give that to you in a sense. (Of course I'm talking about the social experiences, partying and so on)
And for the obvious pointer in this scenario, the post-graduate commitment you make when attending these schools - joining the Army or Navy, respectively. Many football players that do indeed pan out to be National Football League talents are denied permission to play in the league, with only a few exceptions.
The most recent example being Caleb Campell, a defensive back from Army who was drafted by the Detroit Lions. Overjoyed with the opportunity to be a part of the league, which so many hope to reach, he was disheartened when he remembered he had to serve his Army time before he could join his new team.
With so many talented players joining college football today, and top-tier recruits hoping to make a name for themselves on Sundays, becoming a star on campus during Saturday for a traditionally good program such as Navy and Army is overlooked entirely.
With that, though, adds a unique experience to the game.
While it isn't superstar against superstar like most rivalries showcase, it's military branch against military branch. If any game in this fine country is deserving of the crown "America's Game", this is positively the one that has to be it.
No game displays as much passion for the pigskin as what this competition turns out to be. Without the focus taking prime attention to one athlete, the game is taken shape as a team game, with all 11 players for both teams becoming the stars, and that's what really makes sport today, and what really makes this rivalry what it is.
The schedule proclaims Army and Navy each play 12 games, including their game against each other. But in the back of every player and coach's mind burns one deep thought, and that's either "Beat Army" or "Beat Navy".
The game has always been competitive, whether the competition be on the field, in the stands, in the press boxes or where each school's band is seated.
This meeting has seen some spectacular finishes, and some moments well worthy of being proclaimed the best rivalry in college football hands down, and maybe even the best rivalry in all of sports. These players are passionate about playing football, not about the money, the rankings or the draft status.
History has been made countless times in this contest. Instant replay was introduce to the world of college football during an Army-Navy game in 1963. The game has seen future NFL Hall of Famers play, like Roger Staubach, and countless future professionals that were allowed to play... possibly even more if regulations weren't so strict.
Many people tend to imagine what the rivalry would become if the University policies for each Army and Navy weren't so strict.
I feel there would be a big difference, mainly because this rivalry is the best because of the schools. It's a branch of the United States military against another branch of the United States military. It's representatives of what this nation is and has become, and that's explained with one word and one word only:
It's not university against university out there. It's against the men that protect and defend this nation to the fullest of their capabilities, and if that doesn't spell out rivalry game to you, then nothing should, and nothing does.
These teams play for the love and respect for the game of football, not for the sake of hating each other. That's what makes this rivalry the biggest and best in college football today.