(CNN) — In a rivalry steeped with tradition, Army and Navy will square off for the 116th time on Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
Of course both teams have had this game on their minds all year, and there’s no doubt there has been a lot preparation with practice, studying the playbooks and coming up with a game plan.
But it’s not just the football players preparing for this rivalry game. It’s also about protecting the goats.
Yes, you read that correctly, the goats.
Navy’s mascot is Bill the Goat, and the team has several of them. Two of the Bills are 9 years old and will retire after this year’s game. The youngest mascots in training are Bill XXXV and Bill XXXVI.
According to the United States Naval Academy, legend has it that a pet goat died at sea while on board a Navy ship. As a sign of affection, the officers saved the goat’s skin and wore it to an Army-Navy game, romping up and down and the sidelines. Navy won.
In 1893, a live goat named El Cid (The Chief) made his debut as a mascot at the Army-Navy game. Navy won that game. Starting in the early 1900s, Navy started naming the goats “Bill.”
As one might expect in a rivalry that runs as deep as this one, there have been goat shenanigans throughout the years. The first theft of Bill the Goat happened in 1953, with West Point cadets putting Bill in the back of a convertible. As recently as 2012, someone stole Bill the Goat ahead of the Army-Navy game and Bill was tied to a median near the Pentagon. The Air Force and Maryland also have gotten the Navy’s goats over the years.
Security has been ramped up since the 2012 incident, and the Midshipmen are confident they can thwart any plans the Black Knights may have this year.
“We don’t want Army to come and steal it,” midshipman Richard Elmore said. “We know they are not capable of doing it, but just for precaution measures.”
CNN’s Coy Wire recently visited Navy to discuss the security plan on protecting the goats. However, no one would disclose where the mascots are kept.
“I can’t tell you that,” midshipman David Bishop said.
“We won’t tell anyone,” Wire promised.
“Nope, afraid I can’t do that,” Bishop said.
What type of clearance does one need in terms of military classification to know where the goats are kept?
“Above top secret,” midshipman Michael Lopez-Shaw said. “This is a whole separate classification.”
Navy assured CNN that the goats are secured and locked down. There also is a guard dog. “He is massive and scary,” midshipman Brandon Aldred said.
But what about the Bills themselves? Perhaps they would divulge their location? Doubtful, according to midshipman David Portner.
“They have been heavily briefed, and let’s just say they probably won’t give you anything either,” Portner said.
Still, CNN persisted and directly asked the Bills where they reside. But the goats didn’t budge and gave no comment.
However, there was a message from the midshipmen handling them:
“Fear the goat! Fear the goat! Beat Army!”