U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AFNS) --
Nineteen. That's how many times the Air Force Academy has won the coveted Commander in Chief's Trophy.
The trophy arrived here after Air Force downed Army 23-6
on Nov. 1, and can now be seen in the lobby of the 10th Air Base Wing headquarters building.
Created by the U.S. service academies' graduate communities, the trophy is awarded to the winning team of the college football triangular series, an inter-service competition based on Col. George Simler's idea for a service academy rivalry.
Simler was the Academy's second athletic director and the series began in 1972, shortly after his death.
Getting to keep the trophy means a lot to Academy graduates and staff, including Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson.
"While our football team secured the trophy with their victories, it represents the incredible character, spirit and resiliency of all our cadets, faculty and staff," she said. "I'm very proud of our team and the terrific impact our Athletic Department continues to have in our mission of developing leaders of character."
President Barack Obama is scheduled to present the trophy to the team at the White House early next year. So far, Falcon football players have made 16 trips to Washington since 1983, meeting every president in office since Ronald Reagan. No other collegiate or professional athletic team has visited the White House as often, with Navy earning the trophy 14 times and Army six times. The trophy was presented to the Academy during the cadets' graduation ceremonies in 1984 and 1999.
When the series does not produce a clear winner, the previous winner keeps the trophy until the next season's winner is officially announced. This has happened four times in the trophy's history, most recently in 1993.
"There's a great sense of pride in our alma mater associated with the Commander in Chief's Trophy, and for good reason," said Lt. Col. Howard Gentry, an Academy admissions official and Class of '92 graduate. "No matter what year we may have graduated, we understand, beyond any shadow of doubt, the incredible team effort it takes from all Academy support elements and organizations to have a successful team. Winning that trophy connects us all to the generations of Academy graduates who represent the Long Blue Line from the day the Academy opened its doors in 1955 until now. Whether a recently graduated lieutenant or a senior officer, all former cadets feel connected to the effort it takes to win the trophy and we all share a sense of triumph when we do win it back."
Cadet 4th Class Jared Mataitusi said he's very aware of all the trophy represents to the Academy and to cadets.
"I was looking at it for the first time and reading the list of service academies that have won it over the years, and just thinking about the tradition it represents to cadets," he said. "We've won the trophy 19 times, more than any other service academy, and that's just impressive. All cadets, regardless of their generation, can relate to this."
The inherent message of the Commander in Chief's Trophy is also very clear to U.S. Air Force Academy Preparatory School cadet candidates, said Col. Gerald Szybist, the commander of the Prep School and Class of '91 graduate.
"It reflects the element of competition that is very much a part of the Academy's essence," he said. "Competition not only requires cadets and cadet candidates to excel, but to balance time between their academic, athletic and military demands, while striving to be the best in all they do. In keeping with that essence, 'competition enhances determination, demands commitment and teaches life lessons that build skills and resiliency while shaping cadets and cadet candidates into very capable leaders,'" he said, citing the Academy's essence document.
The trophy will return to the Academy with the team after the ceremony.