For most schools, academics is the most important goal for students to achieve. Schools like the United States Naval Academy, however, teach and prioritize something much different than that.
Navy, located in Annapolis, MD, serves as a four-year university, but also as a training ground for some of America’s best and brightest young men and women to become members of the United States Navy. The Academy gives the 4,603 undergraduates a place to not only receive top of the line education, but also “to develop Midshipmen morally, mentally and physically and to imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, honor, and loyalty,” according to Navy’s mission statement.
The Naval Academy was founded in 1845 thanks to the efforts of then-Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft. The school began small, with 50 students and seven professors in 1845, but soon began to expand as the Navy expanded. In 1850, a curriculum was established that allowed students to study at the Academy for four years, while training aboard ships over the summer. This curriculum’s basic format is still followed today.
Navy places an emphasis on moral education to go along with academic education, particularly focusing on integrity, honor, and mutual respect. It has a strict honor concept, which states that “midshipmen are persons of integrity: they stand for what is right”. Even without any kind of background familiarity with The Academy, it becomes obvious that this is no ordinary university, and that students who attend know that they will be tested both inside and outside of the classroom.
Navy’s athletic program has a storied history, and today boasts 29 Division I varsity sports. They compete in the Patriot League in all sports but football which, until recently, was independent. However, last month it was reported that the Midshipmen would be one of five schools invited to the expanding Big East. They would compete in the Big East in football only, and remain in the Patriot League in other sports.
The defining program for most schools is its football team, and Navy is no exception. It is part of what is arguably one of college football’s greatest traditions, the annual Army-Navy game. It has been played since 1890, and even if one or both teams are not at the top of the rankings, it is still a rivalry rich with tradition. Both programs know that the game represents more than just an athletic competition. Though they compete fiercely on the field, at the end of the day they are able to look at the big picture and realize that, once their football days are over, they will focus on the defense of our country.
Navy, Army, and Air Force all compete for the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, which is given to the school with the best head-to-head record against the other two schools. Air Force has clinched this year’s trophy, while Navy’s last trophy win came in 2009.
Navy’s basketball team enters today’s game against Mizzou with a 3-7 record and riding a three game losing streak. The Tigers are the first ranked team the Midshipmen have faced since 2008 (Villanova), and the first top 10 opponent since 2000 (Wake Forest). They are led by sophomore forward J.J. Avila, who averages 13.4 PPG and 6.2 RPG.
Mizzou, on the other hand, is coming off a huge 81-71 win in Madison Square Garden against Villanova. Senior guard Marcus Denmon continued his torrid shooting, scoring 28 points off 10-16 shooting and six three pointers. With a victory, the Tigers would match their best start (9-0) since the 2006-07 season.
Regardless of how competitive the game may be, when playing Navy one should take a moment and reflect what it really means to play for Navy. The players on the visiting bench represent more than just their school, they represent their country. They are more than just athletes, they will soon be soldiers. Rather than investing their time in preparing for the riches of an NBA career after their college days are over, they are preparing to put their lives on the line to defend our country. On the court it will look like any other basketball game, but off the court, it means so much more to the parties involved. So remember, while they may be our opponents for this afternoon, they deserve to be treated with utmost respect for what they represent off the court.
Topics: Air Force, Annapolis, Army, Army-Navy, Big East, Commander-in-Chief's Trophy, George Bancroft, Honor Concept, J.J. Avila, Madison Square Garden, Marcus Denmon, Maryland, Midshipmen, Mizzou, Navy, Patriot League, Tigers, United States Naval Academy, Villanova, Wake Forest