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.
ESPN has long taken a leadership role in honoring the significant, historic contributions and sacrifices of members of our nation’s armed forces with its annual week-long celebration of Veterans Day.
“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 each other 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.