As such awards go, the Commander-in-Chief's trophy is impressive: three-sided and 170 pounds. As college football rivalries go, Army-Navy is unparalleled, each team nearly the sole focus of the other throughout the season.
But not since 1996 has the season-ending meeting between the academies decided possession of the trophy, which is given annually to the winner of the three-way competition that includes Air Force. Because both Army and Navy beat the Falcons this season, the winner of today's game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia will take home the hardware.
For the past two years, the trophy has resided inside a glass case in the Rotunda area of Bancroft Hall, the dormitory that is home to the Brigade of Midshipmen.
"I look at that trophy at some point pretty much every day," senior quarterback Lamar Owens said. "I think everybody in the brigade does, too. That trophy is a big point of pride for everybody here and it's something we want to keep."
Army (4-6), which has lost its past three meetings with Navy, is trying to take possession of the trophy for the first time since 1996 and just the seventh time in the competition's 34-year history. The Midshipmen (6-4) are trying to win the trophy outright for a third consecutive year for the first time.
"We don't want to be the class that loses the trophy after we've worked so hard to get it," Navy senior defensive end Jeremy Chase said. "Keeping that trophy here was our number one goal before the season, and we have to accomplish it. Anything else would be failure."
Though the series is tied 49-49-7, Navy has won the past three meetings by an average of 37.6 points. But today's 106th meeting figures to be closer than last year's 42-13 decision. Navy, which will be headed to the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego to play Colorado State on Dec. 22, has been more consistent this season, averaging 31.7 points and a Division I-A-best 287.5 rushing yards. But the Midshipmen haven't defeated a team with a winning record, and the six teams it has beaten have a combined record of 9-57.
Army appears to be playing better the second half of the season. After an 0-6 start, the Black Knights have reeled off four straight victories, including a 20-0 win at Akron, which won the Mid-American Conference title Thursday.
"We've had some rough years in the past," said senior running back Carlton Jones, whose class had won just three games the previous three seasons. "And to have a chance to win five games and win the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy is pretty incredible. It would be the perfect ending to a good story. I'd like to beat Navy at least once in my career."
Coaches and players from both schools acknowledge the interest in this game extends across the world, especially to troops stationed overseas because, in the words of Army Coach Bobby Ross, "If you have even an ounce of patriotism, you're going to want to be a part of this game."
"We know we're playing for more than our brigade, but for everyone who came here before us and for all the Marines who are fighting for our country," Navy junior cornerback Jeremy McGown said. "If winning this game makes our troops happy and makes life in any way better for them, then we want to make it happen. You don't get the chance to do that a lot by playing a football game."