- On December 8, West Point cadets and Naval Academy midshipmen will face off on the gridiron for the 119th annual Army-Navy football game.
- We compared six apects of these service academics, which test students’ physical, mental and academic strength.
- Army has higher-ranked academics and a better football team for the past two seasons. But Navy is the better overall school.
On Saturday, cadets from the Military Academy will take to the field to defend its current winning streak against the Naval Academy midshipmen in the 119th annual Army-Navy football game.
“America’s game” is no typical rivalry. Cadets and midshipmen, including the players on the field, endure rigorous challenges that extend far beyond the classroom.
Which of these prestigious institutions outperforms the other is an enduring debate. To settle the question, we compared the academies in terms of academics, the “plebe” experience, location, career options and football statistics – read through to find out which of these rivals has the edge.
Full disclosure: The author of this post graduated from the US Naval Academy in 2010. This comparison is based on totally objective analysis, but you can weigh in with your perspective at the links on her author bio.
LOCATION: The Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland is nestled in an idyllic location on the Chesapeake Bay.
Annapolis, the “sailing capital of the world,” is just outside the Naval Academy gates. Midshipmen are part of life in the picturesque town.
The correct term for students at the Naval Academy is “midshipmen,” not cadets like their counterparts at West Point.
Army’s West Point is a bit more isolated, and located on the western bank of the Hudson River.
Cadets have to travel much farther to experience the joys of time-off in a city.
On the rare occasion they get to experience extracurricular activities, midshipmen have an abundance of options in closer proximity.
In terms of location, the Naval Academy takes the trophy.
ACADEMICS: US News ranks the Naval Academy as the #2 Public School for an undergraduate degree.
The student-faculty ratio is 8:1 at Annapolis, and about 75% of classes there have fewer than 20 students, according to US News.
West Point is ranked at #1
Based on self-reported data compiled by US News, West Point has an edge over Navy in academics.
MILITARY TRAINING: Academics are only part of the curriculum at these federally-funded academies. Students begin with tough summer training to kick off their military careers.
These training regimens are generally comparable to basic training for officers and enlisted, and provoke a lot of debate about whether they’re easier than what other officers must go through.
At the Naval Academy, “plebe summer” involves rigorous physical activities, including PT in the surf.
At both academies, freshmen are referred to as “plebes” to indicate their lesser status. These students are also known as midshipmen fourth-class; first classes are seniors.
At the end of their first summer, cadets conduct a 12-mile ‘March Back’ to West Point from Camp Buckner before being formally accepted into the Corps of Cadets.
The initial summer training at both institutions are physically and mentally challenging. In terms of difficulty, the two stand on even ground.
But Naval Academy midshipmen have to endure one more week than their cadet brothers and sisters, so we have to give the edge to Navy’s plebe summer.
(When the last real plebe summer took place remains an open debate among graduates).
At West Point, plebes celebrate the end of their difficult summer with a giant pillow fight.
In 2015, cadets took the fight to the next level, and The New York Times reported 24 freshmen got concussions from the bloody brawl.
Navy doesn’t have a pillow fight, and it’s unclear whether that should count as a win or a loss.
CULMINATION OF TRAINING: Midshipmen must endure a rigorous 14-hour set of physical and mental challenges known as “Sea Trials” at the end of their freshman year.
Cadets do not have a “Sea Trials” equivalent.
Overall, the Naval Academy’s plebes face more hurdles than plebes at West Point – the scales therefore tip towards Annapolis for a more challenging regimen that they can, and will, brag about.
The plebes then climb a monument called Herndon, which their upperclassmen have greased with tubs of lard, to replace the iconic ‘plebe’ dixie hat with an upper class cover.
The tradition is also a competition among classes – bragging rights belong to the class that can replace the cover in the shortest period of time.
The tradition has seen various iterations throughout Naval Academy history, but can sometimes get ugly — and even bloody.
The Herndon climb is considered the final rite of passage for ‘plebes’ at the Naval Academy.
CAREERS: Upon graduation, newly commissioned Navy and Marine Corps officers ‘join the fleet.’
Marines will be selected for either an air or ground option. Once they graduate from a common officer training course, the officers will go on to receive specialised training in their fields, which include infantry, artillery, intelligence, aviation, and several more.
Navy officers are commissioned for roles in surface, subsurface, aviation and special operations communities. A handful will be selected as Navy SEALs. A select few may be accepted into medical school.
West Point commissions its cadets into one of over 17 branches of the Army when they graduate, sending them into careers ranging from artillery and infantry to intelligence and engineering.
While West Point has an impressive selection of career options, when considering both Navy and Marine Corps communities,Annapolis offers more options and therefore has an edge.
ATHLETICS: On December 8, the cadets and midshipmen will face off in the 119th Army-Navy football game.
In terms of their football team’s 2018 statistics, Army has the edge to beat Navy for the third year in a row.
West Point’s current record stands at 9-2, and holds a current 7-game winning streak this season.
Navy’s record is bleak: 3-9 this season overall.
Overall, midshipmen have won the majority of Army-Navy games, in football and most other sports.
Historically, Navy is the better team. In football, and most other sports as well.
Navy holds 60 wins over Army, who has won only 51 games. (Seven games have ended in a tie).
Midshipmen also hold the longest streak – 14 wins between 2002 and 2015. This year, Army will have to defend its 2-year streak.
Though other sports are largely overlooked by the public, the Army-Navy rivalry extends well beyond the gridiron. The all-time Army-Navy competition record holds Navy as the better athletic program, with a 1071-812-43 win-loss-tie ratio.
Some of the teams that have boosted the Naval Academy’s record are listed below:
Navy Women’s swimming and diving crushes Army with a 34-4 W-L record.
Navy Men’s basketball has defeated Army 78 times, with only 50 losses against their rival.
WINNER: Naval Academy
Overall, the Naval Academy takes the trophy as the better service academy.
Although Army’s current athletic season and academics are impressive, the Naval Academy’s prime location, rigorous training, career options and overall athletic program give it an edge over its rival.
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