Navy vs. Notre Dame History: An Enduring Rivalry Steeped in Tradition

Explore the century-long rivalry between Notre Dame and Navy in college football, from wartime solidarity to modern gridiron showdowns.

The storied rivalry between Notre Dame and Navy traces its roots back to 1927, marking the inception of a tradition that has endured for nearly a century. This annual clash holds the distinction of being the longest uninterrupted intersectional series in college football history, a testament to the enduring spirit of competition between these two institutions. While the Notre Dame-USC series was interrupted by the upheaval of World War II, the rivalry with Navy remained steadfast, symbolizing a special bond that transcended mere athletic competition.

A Crucial Lifeline

During the tumultuous period of World War II, when the nation was gripped by the urgency of war, colleges across the country faced unprecedented challenges. The economic strain was particularly felt by institutions like Notre Dame, which lacked the financial security of state funding or the extensive endowments of Ivy League schools. However, in a remarkable display of solidarity, the United States Navy came to Notre Dame’s rescue. Amidst the chaos of war, the Navy designated Notre Dame as a training center and provided crucial financial support, ensuring the university’s survival during a time of crisis. This act of generosity cemented a special relationship between Notre Dame and the Navy, rooted in mutual respect and gratitude.

Legendary Figures and Shared Sacrifice

Even legendary figures like Frank Leahy, who left his coaching position at Notre Dame to enlist in the Navy, exemplified the intertwined destinies of these two institutions. Whether through direct influence or the broader ethos of camaraderie, Leahy’s involvement underscored the depth of the bond between Notre Dame and the Navy.

A Tradition of Sportsmanship

Grateful for the Navy’s support during their darkest hour, Notre Dame reciprocated by extending an open invitation to Navy to compete against the Fighting Irish every year. This commitment, grounded in mutual trust and respect, reflects Notre Dame’s enduring values and its recognition of the Navy’s pivotal role in its history.

In 2005, a new tradition was born, as both teams stood side by side for the post-game singing of their alma maters, regardless of the outcome on the field. This gesture of sportsmanship and camaraderie exemplifies the unique bond shared between Notre Dame and Navy, transcending the boundaries of mere competition.

A Shift in Dynamics: Navy’s Success

After Navy’s monumental victory in 2007, the Midshipmen experienced a period of success against the Fighting Irish, capitalizing on their newfound momentum. Their triumphs included a pivotal 23-21 win over Notre Dame in 2009, contributing to the downfall of Charlie Weis’s coaching tenure at Notre Dame. This victory underscored Navy’s resilience and ability to compete at the highest level.

Challenges and Renewed Determination

The arrival of Brian Kelly as Notre Dame’s head coach ushered in a new era, but it began on a sour note for the Fighting Irish. In a humbling defeat, Navy delivered one of the most embarrassing losses of Kelly’s tenure, securing a resounding 35-17 victory at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. This defeat served as a wake-up call for Notre Dame, highlighting the challenges they faced in maintaining their dominance over Navy.

Return to Dominance for Notre Dame

However, since that setback, Notre Dame has regained its footing in the series, reclaiming its dominance with authority. Over the past 12 meetings, the Fighting Irish have emerged victorious in 11 contests, demonstrating a renewed determination and resilience. The pinnacle of their recent success came with a resounding 42-3 blowout in Dublin, Ireland, marking the kickoff of the 2023 season in spectacular fashion.

A Promise of Thrilling Encounters

This recent resurgence underscores Notre Dame’s commitment to excellence and its unwavering pursuit of victory. As both teams continue to evolve and adapt, the rivalry between Notre Dame and Navy remains as intense and captivating as ever, promising thrilling encounters and enduring memories for generations of fans to come. Anchors aweigh, as the tradition lives on for decades to come.

Notre Dame Navy Series History

1927W19Baltimore, MD6
1928W7Chicago, IL0
1929W14Baltimore, MD7
1930W26South Bend, IN2
1931W20Baltimore, MD0
1932W12Cleveland, OH0
1933L0Baltimore, MD7
1934L6Cleveland, OH10
1935W14Baltimore, MD0
1936L0Baltimore, MD3
1937W9South Bend, IN7
1938W15Baltimore, MD0
1939W14Cleveland, OH7
1940W13Baltimore, MD7
1941W20Baltimore, MD13
1942W9Cleveland, OH0
1943W33Cleveland, OH6
1944L13Baltimore, MD32
1945T6Cleveland, OH6
1946W28Baltimore, MD0
1947W27Cleveland, OH0
1948W41Baltimore, MD7
1949W40Baltimore, MD0
1950W19Cleveland, OH10
1951W19Baltimore, MD0
1952W17Cleveland, OH6
1953W38South Bend, IN7
1954W6Baltimore, MD0
1955W21South Bend, IN7
1956L7Baltimore, MD33
1957L6South Bend, IN20
1958W40Baltimore, MD20
1959W25South Bend, IN22
1960L7Philadelphia, PA14
1961L10South Bend, IN13
1962W20Philadelphia, PA12
1963L14South Bend, IN35
1964W40Philadelphia, PA0
1965W29South Bend, IN3
1966W31Philadelphia, PA7
1967W43South Bend, IN14
1968W45Philadelphia, PA14
1969W47South Bend, IN0
1970W56Philadelphia, PA7
1971W21South Bend, IN0
1972W42Philadelphia, PA23
1973W44South Bend, IN7
1974W14Philadelphia, PA6
1975W31South Bend, IN10
1976W27Cleveland, OH21
1977W43South Bend, IN10
1978W27Cleveland, OH7
1979W14South Bend, IN0
1980W33East Rutherford, NJ0
1981W38South Bend, IN0
1982W27East Rutherford, NJ10
1983W28South Bend, IN12
1984W18East Rutherford, NJ17
1985W41South Bend, IN17
1986W33Baltimore, MD14
1987W56South Bend, IN13
1988W22Baltimore, MD7
1989W41South Bend, IN0
1990W52East Rutherford, NJ31
1991W38South Bend, IN0
1992W38East Rutherford, NJ7
1993W58Philadelphia, PA27
1994W58South Bend, IN21
1995W35South Bend, IN17
1996W54Dublin, Ireland27
1997W21South Bend, IN17
1998W30Raljon, MD0
1999W28South Bend, IN24
2000W45Orlando, FL14
2001W34South Bend, IN16
2002W30Baltimore, MD23
2003W27South Bend, IN24
2004W27East Rutherford, NJ9
2005W42South Bend, IN21
2006W38Baltimore, MD14
2007L44South Bend, IN46
2008W27Baltimore, MD21
2009L21South Bend, IN23
2010L17East Rutherford, NJ35
2011W56South Bend, IN14
2012W50Dublin, Ireland10
2013W38South Bend, IN34
2014W49Landover, MD39
2015W41Notre Dame, IN24
2016L27Orlando, FL28
2017W24Notre Dame, IN17
2018W44San Diego, CA22
2019W52Notre Dame, IN20
2021W34Notre Dame, IN6
2022W35Baltimore, MD22
2023W42Dublin, Ireland3

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  1. So….here you go Ron:

    Question: Who can’t stop talking, even though they have nothing of their own to ever say?
    Answer: A dummy! You know, with an arm shoved up their backside.

  2. Here’s a great riddle….especially for Ron Burgundy:

    Who can’t stop himself from talking, yet never has any thoughts ?

  3. Agree. Navy is not to be taken lightly. Returning 8th year senior qb Keenan Reynolds is a veteran of the triple option and Irish D better be ready for him. Midshipmen also come in with a pretty good D–their best in last few years. Nice article by Duranko on history of Navy versus Notre Dame. A respected rivalry and always has been. I’ll tell you what though , Navy , after losing this Saturday to Irish , can very well finish season at 11-1. That ain’t no blarney. The Conference they joined this 2015 is not that impressive top to bottom. 11-1 finish for Navy would be best in their history. Playoff consideration ? Nah , not with their SOS. There will be a log jam of 11-1/12-1 teams in contention after Conference Titles are sorted out. Hope ND is in contention after beating Stanford and going 11-1. Go Irish.

  4. Traditional is one thing and this game as great tradition and when navy wins one it usually causes a stir if only on the two campuses. But let’s face it navy is generally a patsie and it becomes a rather boring game.
    I guess when you play USC, Clemson and Stanford, you hopefully have a breather now and again. navy does run the option and that usually causes ND a problem Let’s hope they are not looking ahead otherwise our battleship might get taken out! Go Irish!!

  5. A great series. I love when fans of other schools criticize ND for playing Navy year after year (the same fans of schools who play Savannah State and other Division II schools). I always wonder why the disrespect for Navy. They generally field at least an average team and teams overlook Navy at their own peril. I still remember a few seasons ago when Ohio State was caught flatfooted against Navy looking ahead to their “big” game against USC the following week. Ohio State barely got away with the win.

    Navy will beat you if you dare to overlook them.

    I remember that first loss to Navy a few years ago well. People complain about BK going for 2 early in the Clemson game, but that pales in comparison to going for 4th and long when a field goal would win it. I remember Weis’ excuse that our FG kicker was having difficulties and something about the wind direction or some nonsense. It was such a lame excuse. Even if you had the worst FG kicker in the world you had nothing to lose. The clock was almost down to 0, if you make the FG you win, if you miss you go to OT. Terrible decision that illuminated once and for all that Weis was not a good HC.

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