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USNA History and Traditions (Summer 2017)

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From the first athletic competition played on the gridiron in 1879 to Navy's recent triumphs, several events, people, rivalries and personalities have shaped the entire Naval Academy athletic program. Below is a look at just some of the history and traditions that make Navy one of the most storied programs in all of collegiate athletics.

Anchors Aweigh

"Anchors Aweigh" was written by Lt. Charles Zimmermann, Musical Director of the Naval Academy in 1906, with the lyrics provided by Alfred H. Miles of the Class of 1906, as a fight song for the 1907 graduating class instead of the usual class march Zimmermann had composed for previous classes. The song made its debut at the 1906 Army-Navy game, and when the Midshipmen won the game, the song became traditional at this game. It gained national exposure in the 1920s and 1930s when it was heard on the radio and was in a number of popular movies. In 1997 a one-hour documentary on the history of Navy football, titled "Anchors Aweigh for Honor and Glory", was produced by NFL Films. The film was deemed a success by both critics and fans alike. Here are the words:

Stand Navy down the field, Sails set to the sky,
We'll never change our course, So Army you steer shy.
Roll up the score, Navy, Anchors Aweigh,
Sail Navy down the field, And sink the Army,
Sink the Army Grey

Bill the Goat

The first recorded use of a goat mascot for Navy athletic teams was in 1893 when an animal named El Cid (The Chief) was turned over to the Brigade by young officers of the USS New York. El Cid helped Navy to a 6-4 triumph over Army that year. Two cats, a dog, and a carrier pigeon have also enjoyed brief reigns as the Navy mascot, but goats have served without interruption since 1904.

Bill XXXVI (36) and Bill XXXVII (37) are the current mascots. A group of midshipmen from the 8th company, known as Team Bill, are trained as goat handlers to ensure the goats' safety, security and comfort on the sidelines during football games.

Blue & Gold

This song was written in 1923 by Cmdr. Roy de Saussure Horn, USN (Ret.) with music composed by J.W. Crosley. Following every home athletic competition, the team faces its fans with its hand on its heart and sings the following:

Now, colleges from sea to sea
May sing of colors true;
But who has better right than we
To hoist a symbol hue?
For sailors brave in battle fair,
Since fighting days of old,
Have proved the sailor's right to wear
The Navy Blue and Gold

Enterprise Bell

From the bridge of the famed World War II aircraft carrier, it has been a part of the Naval Academy tradition since 1950. The late Admiral Harry W. Hill, then Superintendent, was instrumental in bringing the "E" Bell to Annapolis. It rings during special ceremonies honoring the sports teams that won the N-Star against Army. The bell is stationed in front of Bancroft Hall.


The word midshipman first appeared in English in the 17th century in the form of the word midshipman to designate those men who were stationed "amidships," i.e. in the waist or middle portion of the vessel, while on duty. By 1687, however, the second 's' had been dropped to give the current form of the word. Midshipmen were originally boys, sometimes as young as seven or eight, who were apprenticed to sea captains to learn the sailor's trade.

In the early days of the American Navy, midshipmen trained aboard ship until they were eventually commissioned as ensigns. With the founding of the Naval Academy in 1845, it became possible, as it still is, for a midshipman to enter the Navy directly from civilian life. The name of students at the Naval Academy changed several times between 1870 and 1902, when Congress restored the original title of Midshipman, and it has remained unchanged since.


The familiar Native American figurehead facing Bancroft Hall and Tecumseh Court has been an Annapolis resident since 1866. Originally, the figurehead of the USS Delaware was meant to portray Tamanend, the great chief of the Delawares. It developed that Tamanend was a lover of peace and did not strike the fancy of the Brigade. Looking for another name, Midshipmen referred to the figurehead as Powhatan and King Philip before finally settling on Tecumseh, the fierce Shawnee chieftain who lived from 1768-1813. The original wooden statue was replaced after some 50 years in the open weather by a durable bronze replica, presented by the Class of 1891. It is considered a good-luck "mascot" for the midshipmen, who in times past would throw pennies at it and offer left-handed salutes whenever they wanted a 'favor', such as a sports win over West Point, or spiritual help for examinations. These days it receives a fresh coat of war paint and is often decorated in various themes during football weeks and other special occasions such as Commissioning Week.

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