PHILADELPHIA, DEC. 7 -- The 91st Army-Navy game Saturday will be the first for Navy Coach George Chaump, the eighth and last for Army Coach Jim Young.
If their offensive philosophies are light years apart, both men hold the same view of the frenetic service rivalry, which stands 42-41-7 in Navy's favor. As assistants, they roamed opposite sidelines during the most heated of college football conflicts -- Ohio State (Chaump) against Michigan (Young) -- but they acknowledge that Army-Navy is even more special.
"Any rivalry, when you're involved, is the number one rivalry," Young said today as he guided the Cadets through a brief workout at Veterans Stadium. "Army-Navy, though, is unique for two reasons. It's not just two colleges, but so many people across the country, and these days across the world, relate to Army and Navy, not necessarily because they're from West Point or Annapolis, but because in some way they have ties to one service or another.
"The second reason, and the great difference, is that the game is generally played by seniors who are playing their last game before they go off and be together in the armed forces. There's no pro career ahead; they aren't thinking about insurance policies to protect against injury. They give all they've got out here on the field."
Chaump said, "There are a lot of big rivalries, and I've been involved in some, but nothing like the Army-Navy game. It's not just a state, but the whole country, probably the biggest of all college rivalries. The only thing that could make it bigger would be if Army and Navy some day would battle for the national championship."
That is unlikely, given the realities of pro football salaries and five-year service commitments. But the fact that both teams brought middle-of-the-road 5-5 records here has done nothing to diminish the stakes, because both are anxious to put the cap on winning seasons.
Navy's last finish on the plus side came in 1982, the year before Young arrived at West Point. While fortunes declined steadily at Annapolis thereafter, Young became Army's most successful head coach (50-39-1) since the legendary Red Blaik.
After a 2-9 inaugural campaign, Young switched to the wishbone offense and a steady supply of hard-nosed runners has brought Army five winning seasons, four triumphs over Navy and three bowl appearances.
The Cadets rank 105th among the 106 Division I-A schools in passing, but they are third in rushing and boast a genuine first-team all-American in left halfback Mike Mayweather, whose 4,212 career rushing yards are the most ever by a service academy back.
While Army tries to pound the ball down an opponent's throat, Navy under Chaump uses every imaginable offensive set, with as many as three backs accompanying senior quarterback Alton Grizzard at the snap.
The television-dictated three-week layoff for both teams has enabled a number of injured players to regain playing status. Chief among those returning is Army right halfback Calvin Cass, who scored both of the Cadets' touchdowns in a 19-17 defeat a year ago.
An Army official joked that Cass would start if he did not hurt himself falling out of bed Saturday morning. It has been that kind of year for Cass, who started every game in 1988 and 1989 but has sat out four games in a weird senior season affected by hip, knee, hand and elbow injuries.
One area of concern for both teams is the punting game. The Cadets rank 105th with a 29.13-yard average, the Midshipmen 93rd at 31.05. Both have been victimized by blocked kicks.
"This will be a hard-hitting, intense game and it will go to the team that wants it most," Young said. Questioned as to how either team could possibly want it more than the other, Young replied, "There will be a slight edge there. There always is."
Young, who is staying at West Point to direct a performance enhancement program in the psychology department, will be succeeded next year by his defensive coordinator, Bob Sutton.
"My thoughts are not on this being my last game," Young said. "I'm preparing for this as the Army-Navy game. I'm just trying to motivate the team."
No doubt, that is the easiest part of the job.