Some of you may be familiar with the annual Army-Navy football game or the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy for the most successful football team of the three largest U.S. service academies.
What you may not realize, however, is that there are two other service academies who have their own football rivalry. The other two federal service academies – the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and U.S. Merchant Marine Academy are approximately 25% the size of the 3 other service academies and compete in Division III athletics. The Coast Guard Bears and Merchant Marine Mariners have an annual football rivalry for the Secretaries Cup.
This rivalry has been described as a small-college version of the Army-Navy matchup. It used to be called the Secretary’s Cup, since both the Coast Guard and Merchant Marines were under the Secretary of Transportation. However, the Coast Guard was moved under the newly created Secretary of Homeland Security in 2003 and the name of the rivalry changed to the plural, Secretaries Cup. The two campuses are at either end of the Long Island Sound. p.s. The latest meeting in 2020 was won 24–14 by Merchant Marine. Notably, it was the only Division III football game played in 2020. The NCAA canceled the 2020 D-III football season due to the pandemic.
With regards to the featured university, the Coast Guard Academy is the smallest of the 5 service academies at just over 1,000 students. It was founded in 1876 and their motto is Scientiæ Cedit Mare or “The Sea Yields to Knowledge”
The School started out as the “School of Instruction of the Revenue Cutter Service” The school moved to Maryland in 1900 and to its current town of New London, Connecticut in 1910. In 1914, the school became the Revenue Cutter Academy, and it became the Coast Guard Academy in 1915 with the merger of the Revenue Cutter Service and the Life Saving Service.
The academy was racially integrated in 1962 at the request of President Kennedy. The academy began admitting women in 1976 at the request of Congress.
Since 1929, every cadet must memorize the mission statement of the Academy, “The mission of the United States Coast Guard Academy is to graduate young men and women with sound bodies, stout hearts and alert minds, with a liking for the sea and its lore, and with that high sense of Honor, Loyalty and Obedience which goes with trained initiative and leadership; well-grounded in seamanship, the sciences and the amenities, and strong in the resolve to be worthy of the traditions of commissioned officers in the United States Coast Guard, in the service of their country and humanity.”
Each summer, cadets participate in training programs according to their class. The summers are organized as follows:
- Swab Summer: The new class of freshmen report in to the Academy, and are sworn into the military. They undergo a 7-week basic training program that culminates on a week-long voyage underway on the barque USCGC Eagle.
- Third-class Summer: 5 weeks aboard the USCGC Eagle training under sail, five weeks aboard an operational Coast Guard cutter or small boat station in the role of junior enlisted (i.e., standing watches as helmsman, lookout, quartermaster of the watch, or engineering watch).
- Second-class Summer: Damage control training, weapon qualifications, navigation rules certification, aviation internship, sail training program, and three weeks as members of the cadre, who train the incoming Swabs.
- First-class Summer: 10 weeks aboard an operational cutter in the role of a junior officer (i.e., standing bridge watches conning the ship as Officer of the Deck).
The Corps is organized as one regiment divided into eight companies, each of which is composed of about 120 cadets of all classes. The eight companies are named for the first eight letters of the NATO phonetic alphabet. Each has a special focus in administering day-to-day affairs: Alpha company manages health and wellness. Bravo Company runs training. Charlie company administers the honor system, Delta Company coordinates drill and ceremonies. Echo Company manages transportation and logistics. Foxtrot operate the cadet conduct system, organizes the watch rotations, and updates the cadet regulations. Golf Company is in charge of supplies for cleaning and repairing damaged rooms within Chase Hall. Hotel company is in charge of morale events.
The academy nickname is the Bears, after the US Rescue Cutter Bear, which made a dramatic rescue in Alaska in 1897, shortly after the opening of the academy.