ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Navy legend traces the roots of the goat mascot back to one of the very first football games. In the 1800s, livestock were kept aboard ships to provide sailors with food and milk.
The tale goes that one goat that died while at sea was more pet than livestock, and the ship’s officers saved the animal’s skin to mount when they arrived back in port.
Half-time show. Once on land, the two officers entrusted with the skin made a slight detour en route to the taxidermist. They stopped by their alma mater, where they found a football game in progress. In very un-officerlike conduct, one of the officers draped the skin over his back and provided some half-time entertainment. The legend attributes the Navy win that day to the spirit of the beloved goat.
The Army’s mascot, incidentally, is a mule.
Ship to shore. The first live goat appeared at the 1893 Army-Navy game, supplied by the USS New York, which dropped anchor off Annapolis to bring the goat ashore.
But the star of the early goat mascots was “Three-To-Nothing Jack Dalton,” the mascot from 1906-1912 named after a midshipman who kicked the winning field goals in 3-0 Navy victories in back-to-back years.
Still inspires. In late November 1912, he was measured for a new blue and gold blanket, but on Nov. 20, he died.
The famous goat was mounted, posed rearing on his hind legs, and can still be seen today at the Naval Academy.
Another famous Bill (the name comes from a pet goat kept by the commandant of midshipmen from 1891-94, Cmdr. Colby Chester, first president of the Naval Academy Athletic Association) was Bill XIV, who suffered the ignoble act of being kidnapped by several rivals. But the loyal mascot maintained a 5-5-2 record over Army in the late 1940s and ’50s and had a 12-year tenure.
The current mascot team is Bill XXXI and Bill XXXII.
– Susan Crowell
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