This release is courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Sports Information.
NEW LONDON, Conn. – In a monumental announcement, beginning next season, ESPN will visibly extend and deepen its commitment to honoring America's veterans with live coverage of the annual Secretaries Cup football game between the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy during Veterans Day weekend.
"As Superintendent of the Coast Guard Academy, and as a former football player, I'm thrilled that ESPN will be broadcasting the Secretaries Cup games," said Rear Admiral James E. Rendon. "As the school with the highest percentage of varsity sport athletes in the nation, we believe that athletic competition plays a fundamental role in developing leaders of character. Honor, Respect and Devotion to Duty are our core values. They help focus our daily efforts, and they follow us out onto the playing field. We look forward to this opportunity to put these values on display to a national television audience."
Coast Guard and Merchant Marine will again be in the same league next season as the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) adds football. The teams will play the in the final game of the season.
"On behalf of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, and specifically the Athletics Division, we are very grateful to ESPN for generously providing us with a marvelous opportunity to showcase our football program and institution through live broadcasts of the annual Secretaries Cup game starting next season," said Tim Fitzpatrick, Coast Guard Academy, Director of Athletics. "Having a chance to play before a national television audience will be a wonderful opportunity for our players, one which they will certainly remember for the rest of their lives. We at CGA are in the business of providing our cadet-athletes with memorable experiences and the chance to play on ESPN's family of networks certainly provides that. Go Bears!"
Similar to the annual Army-Navy clash, moving forward the Secretaries Cup game will be played annually on the last weekend of the regular season. Games in this storied rivalry have been historically been held on each institution's campus – at Coast Guard's Cadet Memorial Field or Merchant Marine's Captain Tomb Field.
The annual Coast Guard vs. Merchant Marine football game was first dubbed the "Secretary's Cup" in 1981, when both institutions were under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The name of the contest was pluralized to "Secretaries Cup" in 2003, when the entire Coast Guard was switched over to the administration of the then newly-formed Department of Homeland Security – a change that was made by the federal government in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.
The "Secretaries Cup" post-game trophy presentation traditionally includes participation by senior military and civilian officials of the Departments of Transportation and Homeland Security, in addition to the Superintendents, Directors of Athletics and Head Coaches of each institution. Following the on-field trophy presentation, each institution's team, staff and official party stands at attention for the playing of the respective alma maters.
The atmosphere surrounding a Secretaries Cup game day is remarkably similar to that of an Army-Navy football game. The game is attended by both institutions' entire student bodies – Coast Guard's Corps of Cadets and Merchant Marine's Regiment of Midshipmen – which adds to an atmosphere that is already high-spirited and emotionally charged, yet at the same time very respectful. On the field, the passion that the players compete with is unparalleled. During their college days and beyond, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine football players who have played in the Secretaries Cup game regard these competitions as the most significant and memorable of their time as student-athletes.
"Young men who will soon serve the country as officers, will honor all of our nations veterans on the playing field," said Coast Guard head coach Bill George. "Having the Coast Guard- Merchant Marine game played on ESPN and on Veterans Day is the most important way our nation can share a sporting event together. "
Coast Guard and Merchant Marine played football for the first time in 1949. The teams didn't play again until the 1965 and 1966 seasons, and then resumed play from 1974-79 – with "Secretary's Cup" play officially beginning in 1981.
The teams have played each season for the past 36 years, with Merchant Marine holding a 31-14 advantage in the series. This season, Merchant Marine defeated Coast Guard 31-27 before a sold out crowd at CGA's Cadet Memorial Field in a game that featured six lead changes. Eight of the last 10 games in the series have been decided by 10 points or less.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING ABOUT THE ANNOUCEMENT
Cody Bain ('18)
Coast Guard Tight End -- Junior
"We are ecstatic about opportunity ESPN has given us; we look forward to representing our nations' finest service academy in a classic rivalry against Merchant Marine. If you're watching Coast Guard football you aren't going to find any flashing lights or glamour. It's never been that way. It never will. What you will find is selflessness and college football in its purest form. There are no aspirations of playing at a higher level, only aspirations to one day be worthy of a commission as an officer in the U.S. Coast Guard, in the service of our country and humanity. In today's society, we are especially conscious of the sacrifices veterans and their families make. We are honored to be part of this nationwide celebration of America's heroes."
Ryan Robertson ('18)
Coast Guard Strong Safety -- Junior
"I think this game will be a great opportunity for the team as well as for the Academy as a whole. It is a good way to get exposure on a popular network and educate people about the other two service Academies that can sometimes be forgotten. I admire ESPN's commitment to honoring the members of the Armed Forces and I think the program is blessed to be able to play a long standing rivalry game on Veteran's Day weekend. I am personally excited for one of my last games of football here at the Academy to be as important and beneficial to the football program as this opportunity presents. Nonetheless, it will be a unique experience that I won't forget."
ENS Kyle Wood ('16)
Former Coast Guard All-conference linebacker
"This news is unbelievable. Very exciting for everyone that has ever been a part of Coast Guard football and those that will be. I think it is great for our service and our academy to get the national attention it deserves. We all came to the Coast Guard academy because we were called to service, but the icing on the cake was getting to play the game I love with my brothers, best friends. We are not as big and publicized as much as the Army-Navy game, but we love the game just as much, if not more, and fight just as hard to win for our brothers and our service. This is a great opportunity for the nation to understand that those of us playing at these two schools love the game almost as much as we love our country. Knowing that my Alma Mater will be playing on ESPN fills me with indescribable emotion."
LT Pat Bennett ('11)
Former Coast Guard All-conference defensive back and kick returner
"As a former Coast Guard Academy Football player the thought of having ESPN cover the game is awesome news! The Coast Guard has service members all over the world and now the 40,000 plus men and women will have an opportunity to cheer on the Bears. This move elevates not only the Coast Guard Academy's football program but all academy sports! As you know not all student athletes are not going to the major colleges that typically get covered by ESPN, this is an opportunity for high school athletes to see a different path to gaining a college degree. I cannot express enough how great this news is!"
Brian Yurovich ('09)
Former Coast Guard All-conference linebacker
"I have always been honored to be a graduate of the U.S Coast Guard Academy and I am humbled to be considered a peer to the highest quality of person that graduates from one of this beautiful nation's five service academies. What a great opportunity and long awaiting visibility for both programs, that focus on graduating leaders of character, that choose to continue to compete at the NCAA level while tackling the many challenges of successfully graduating from each of these esteemed institutions. There are few memories than I am more fond of than my time competing at middle linebacker for the Coast Guard Academy. Although nearly none of us had aspirations of playing beyond our time in college, you would be hard pressed to find a game that was being played with more passion, more heart, and more love, than from two teams that battle one other because they absolutely love the game of football and the camaraderie of taking the field on Saturday alongside their brothers representing what they know to be true... that they are playing for the finest military academy in the country. Go Bears, Beat KP!"
CDR Christian Lee ('97)
Former Coast Guard All-conference wide receiver
"I was fortunate enough to compete in four Coast Guard - Merchant Marine rivalry games, winning three of the four. Those three victories mean more to me than any other in my CGA football career. The game day atmosphere, passion of the crowd, and competition on the field are unrivaled in Division III football - this is our annual bowl game. I am excited to hear that ESPN will now share this great rivalry with a national audience."