Let’s Bring the Secretaries’ Cup to Polar Park

Holy Cross’ partnership with Polar Park appears to be over. Now is the perfect time for the Secretaries’ Cup to make a cameo at Polar Park.

The Coast Guard Academy and Merchant Marine Academy’s rivalry dates back to 1949.
Source: U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Diana Honings

One of college football's most underrated traditions appears to be no more. The EBW Classic at Polar Park a.k.a “The Rose Bowl of the Bay State,” will not occur this year. Yesterday, Holy Cross announced all home games will take place at venerable Fitton Field for the first time since 2020. The brand-new ballpark hosted a Holy Cross home game for the last three seasons. After attracting a sellout crowd in its inaugural year, 2021, interest in the Classic gradually waned. Not even Harvard could help Holy Cross fill Polar Park last year, only managing to draw a crowd of 7,906 fans to the 9,508-seat ballpark.

College football's future at Polar Park looks bleak. Without the support of a Holy Cross program in its best era since Gordie Lockbaum's days, the football experiment at the home of the WooSox seems to be over. Luckily, two of Division III's most iconic rivalries have schools nearby that can benefit from a one-off game at Polar Park.

The Secretaries' Cup: Coast Guard-Merchant Marine

When most people think of military football, their minds naturally gravitate to America's Game, Army-Navy. Who can blame them? Army-Navy has had a slot on national television every year since 1947. Still, military football's pageantry and tradition runs much deeper than Army, Navy, and Air Force's yearly games.

Every year, the Coast Guard Academy and the Merchant Marine Academy wage war in the Secretaries' Cup. The rivalry dates back to 1949 but is as intense as the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy series. However, the game lacks the publicity of the Army-Navy Game due to Coast Guard and Merchant Marine residing in Division III and its playing on both schools' campuses. A neutral site has never hosted the Secretaries' Classic, a stark contrast to the Army-Navy Game, which has only had three on-campus games since 1893.

Polar Park is roughly 70 miles from the Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT. Worcester can host a "mini" Army-Navy Game. Much of the thrill of Army-Navy comes not from the events on the field but the pageantry surrounding it. The pregame march-on and the presence of the Corps of Cadets and Brigade of Midshipmen make the Army-Navy Game an environment like no other.

Worcester can coax the Coast Guard Academy into moving the game to the city by footing the bill for the travel of their Corps of Cadets and the Merchant Marine's Regiment of Midshipmen. The transport of Cadets and Midshipmen is a logistic nightmare that both Army and Navy dread.

Fortunately, the smaller size of the Coast Guard and Merchant Marine's student body makes this issue less daunting for Worcester. Neither school's student body exceeds 1100 Cadets/Midshipmen, compared to the nearly 4000 students that reside at both Army and Navy.

Polar Park can recreate that pageantry in a one-off game. Cadets and Midshipmen from the Coast Guard Academy and the Merchant Marine can march on in the presence of the Worcester Wall, Polar Park's blue, rightfield version of the Green Monster. Furthermore, the increased seating can accommodate both academies' student base *and* alumni that make the trip.

Both schools' home stadiums can hold standing-room-only crowds of 4,000-5,000 fans. About 2,100 of those fans are students from both schools. A one-time move to Polar Park could double ticket sales and increase revenue for the Coast Guard Academy, even after travel fees for the football team and Corps of Cadets.

The City of Worcester also benefits from a one-time Secretaries Cup move. Fascination with the inter-Service Academy rivalry will draw local fans, Veterans, and alums from both schools to the game. This population and the influx of both schools' student bodies will increase hotel and restaurant revenue.

The Secretaries' Cup will also give Worcester positive publicity. Few things are better for a city's reputation with the general public than rallying around the military, especially through sports.

Losing the Holy Cross game hurts Polar Park immensely, but hosting a one-off Secretaries' Cup benefits both the rivalry and the city of Worcester. Worcester can give the Secretaries' Cup the publicity and civic support it has lacked for years.