Veteran radio broadcaster John Tautges will have the call of Saturday’s Army-Navy football game from Philadelphia, alongside former UCLA coach Terry Donahue, on the Dial Global Sports radio network. This will be the fourth time Tautges has handled the play-by-play of this annual rivalry.
The broadcast will be heard on various stations around the country, including Philadelphia’s WIP (610-AM) and Chicago’s WSCR (670-AM), and it will be streamed online at DialGlobalSports.com. The pregame starts at 2 p.m. ET and the game broadcast begins at 3 p.m. ET.
I spoke with Tautges earlier this week about his thoughts on Army-Navy and why it stands out from other college football rivalries.
Ken McMillan: What have you learned about this rivalry since you started broadcasting this game?
John Tautges: I always thought it was a special rivalry from watching it on television when I was young and listening to it on radio. As I got involved with it, I was really impressed with the way things are handled there. It is something that is unlike anything else in football and probably in sports as a whole. There is not only the tradition but the fact that these players, the seniors are going to go off and go into harm’s way potentially … it is something that separates this from any other game I’ve ever done.
KM: How is the pageantry of Army-Navy compared to other college rivalries that you have covered?
JT: It’s different. I have been to some great games. I just did the Alabama-Georgia (Southeastern Conference) championship game in Atlanta last Saturday and that was one of the best games I have ever seen. Talk about the atmosphere, with a sold-out stadium and half the people rooting for Georgia and half the people rooting for Alabama. That atmosphere is unbelievable, but again it is nothing like this because there is so much more to this game than just football. It is the tradition and the fact that they have been playing for so long. And the fact that really sticks with me, that these people will be going out and serving our country, and that’s what separates this.
KM: It is a game that is surrounded by so much patriotism.
JT: There’s no question about that. The patriotism, the fly-overs. At the end of the game both teams go over to the other’s side, the cadets and the midshipmen, and they sing the alma maters. That is something you would not see at an Alabama-Auburn game or a Michigan-Ohio State game. Can you imagine Michigan doing that at Ohio State, or Auburn doing that at Tuscaloosa? No way. But that is what makes the Army-Navy game so special because at the end they all come together because they are all on the same team, and it’s a far more important team then just a football team.
KM: Does Army-Navy still matter in this country among football fans?
JT: I think it really does matter. It’s different from the days when they were powerhouses. Obviously Army has had a tradition of great football teams but that was way back in the day when they won national championships and Heisman trophies. Navy has had some great players … Roger Staubach was a Heisman trophy winner. I think it still matters to people. I really think the cool thing about it is they put this game by itself. This is the lone major college football game on the last Saturday of the regular season, and I think that speaks volumes for how important this game is. People listen to it, they watch it all around the world and it’s still really does matter.
KM: So you’re saying it’s not just for fans of West Point and Annapolis?
JT: Oh no, no. You don’t have to be a fan of either side to enjoy this game. You could sit back and watch the whole scene, not just the football scene. We will talk about some of the other things that are going on when they have the other ceremonies. It is something that I think even a non-football fan can enjoy.
KM: With Army and Navy, you are talking about two very similar programs, very similar teams, very similar talent, and that in of itself should bring out a good game.
JT: It certainly should. Navy has had Army’s number, of course. They have won 10 of these games in a row, the longest winning streak in this series. Army has had a disappointing season, and Navy is going to a bowl game, but as is the case in any great rivalry there is nothing that Army would like better then to end its season on an up note, and that up note would be beating Navy. Navy, on the other hand, would like to run it streak to 11 wins in a row.
They are very similar teams in many ways. They will run and run and run, and when they are done running, they will run some more. And just when the opposition figures they’re going to key on the run and jam everybody up front to try and stop the run, they could pop one on you and throw a pass, even know they are way down in the statistical rankings: Army is last in passing among the 120 major teams but they’re also number one in rushing and Navy is high in rushing, too. I think it will be a lot of running but don’t be surprised if you see a pass here or there and maybe one for a touchdown.
KM: Do you think the surprise play will be the key to the game?
JT: It might be. It is a possibility but on the other hand these teams are almost mirror images of one another. If you’re a team playing at Army or Navy and you have to get ready for this triple option (offense), which is so difficult to prepare for because you just don’t see it these days, then they can present some problems for you. Since Army and Navy kind of run the same offense, they’re both pretty familiar with each other. I think they will know the other one will have some tricks up their sleeves but we’ll see how it turns out.
KM: With Army having a shot to win the Commander in Chief’s Trophy, that brings a little more enthusiasm to the West Point side, don’t you think?
JT: It is a big thing, as far as the Commander in Chief’s Trophy. Both teams would dearly love to have it.
KM: You have seen games where Navy has just blown out Army and won 10 in a row. If Army doesn’t start responding soon, could that takes some luster off of this rivalry?
JT: I don’t think so just because of the different aspect of this game. If you are an Army fan, you don’t want to see Navy dominate like this. Navy has won 10 in a row and 13 of the last 15, and many times in dominating fashion. They have outscored Army 349 to 112 during the 10-game win streak so that is pretty close to 35 points a game compared to just over 11. So it has been one-sided of late but all Army needs is one win to get the fans thrilled and excited about it again. Even though Army has had a disappointing season, you can forget about a lot of those losses if they happen to knock off Navy in their last game.
KM: Do you have any special memory from the first three Army-Navy games you have broadcast?
JT: I think they’re all very special. They are all just tremendous. Maybe the first one I did in 2009, but just because it was the first one. Although I knew about the game and knew about the tradition I never saw it first-hand so maybe that was this most special one to me. But every one of these games has been special.