Bill the Goat
Long before midshipmen began tossing the pigskin around the site of old Fort Severn, goats were an integral part of Navy life. Over 200 years ago, livestock was kept aboard some sea-going naval vessels to provide sailors with food, milk, eggs and, in some cases, pets.
One legend about the first association of the goat with Navy football tells of a pet goat who died at sea while on board a Navy ship. The affection for the goat was such that the officers decided to save the skin of the animal and have it mounted upon arrival in port.
Two young officers were entrusted with the skin when the ship docked in Baltimore. On the way to the taxidermist, the ensigns dropped in on their alma mater where a football game was in progress. With them -- for lack of a suitable storage place -- was the goat skin.
While watching the first half of the game, one of the officers came up with an idea for some half-time entertainment. When half-time arrived, he romped up and down the sidelines cloaked with the goat skin barely covering his blue uniform. Such ungoatlike antics brought howls of laughter from the midshipmen, and the Navy victory that day was attributed to the spirit of the late, lamented goat.
It was not until 1893, however, that a live goat made his debut as a mascot at the fourth Army-Navy game. Again, it was young naval officers who supplied the mids with their sea-faring pet. The USS New York dropped anchor off Annapolis and the ship’s mascot, a goat bearing the name El Cid (The Chief), was brought ashore for the service clash. The West Pointers were defeated for the third time, and the midshipmen feted El Cid along with the team.
The first service match of the 20th century brought out both teams’ traditional mascots for the first time. The mids again borrowed the goat from the USS New York and decked him out in a fine blanket with a gold "NAVY" emblazoned on both sides. On the opposite side of the gridiron, the Army mule was attired in West Point colors and bore on one side the words "No Ships for Me," while on the other flank was "I’m Something of a Kicker Myself."
That game in Philadelphia ended with an 11-7 victory for Annapolis and added prestige for the goat. On the return trip to the Naval Academy, the goat was led on a victory lap through the train and did not leave the mids until they reached Baltimore. It was then that the goat was dubbed the now celebrated name "Bill." The name was borrowed from a pet goat kept by Commander Colby M. Chester, Commandant of Midshipmen from 1891-1894 and the first president of the Naval Academy Athletic Association.
The next year a new goat, named Bill II, was called upon to assume the role of Navy mascot. Along with him, however, were two easily spooked cats who ran for the nearest exit when released from their bag. Navy lost again and goat advocates protested against the joint attention the cats received.
In 1905, the fifth goat, a large angora animal from Princeton, N. J., was given the name of Bill III and bestowed with the duty of bringing victory to the Navy, who had lost the last four years to Army. That year the teams deadlocked 6-6.
The following year, another goat wore the blanket, and it was this mascot which was destined for fame. Originally called Bill, this goat was dubbed "Three-to-Nothing Jack Dalton" after the star midshipman who kicked the field goals that helped Navy defeat Army 3-0 for two successive years.
In 1912, plans were made to honor the goat which had acted as mascot for the previous seven years. Late in November, "Jack" was measured for a new blue and gold blanket, but one week later (November 20) he was stricken with colic and died.
Elaborate plans were made for a funeral, but it was decided instead to have his skin mounted. "Three-to-Nothing Jack Dalton" can be seen today in the foyer of the Academy’s Halsey Field House, mounted in a glass case, reared on his hind legs in a fighting pose.
A brown goat was enlisted into mascot service in 1914, and his wicked temper earned him the name of Satan. Luck seemed to be on Satan’s side, as he was the only goat allowed out of the state during a livestock quarantine to attend the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia. But Satan’s luck was short-lived, and disgrace was heaped upon him when his esteemed blanket was taken away after Navy’s defeat that year.
Finding a goat that could bring victory over Army was beginning to look like an impossible task. To solve this problem, the following ad was run in an Annapolis newspaper in 1916: "WANTED: the meanest and fiercest goat possible . . . Would like to see same before purchasing."
Navy got what it wanted: a mean goat and a victory over Army. He was called Bill VI.
After World War II, the Navy turned to an angora named "Chester" for goatly guidance. Named after Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, the midshipmen changed the mascot’s name to Bill XIII. Rather ominously, he died on the eve of the 1947 game with Army.
His successor, Bill XIV, was presented during the emergency by an Annapolis barber. A loyal mascot, Bill XIV was a frequent target of kidnapping by rival schools. Another of the Navy’s most famed goats, he had a 5-5-2 record over Army and a twelve-year reign, the longest of all previous goat mascots.
Since that time there have been a number of goats who served as the honored mascot of the Academy, and several of them have unusual stories.
In 1968 Bill XVI, a gift from the Air Force Academy, died of accidental poisoning from weed killer sprayed too closely to his pen.
His successor, Bill XVII, met the same fate three years later.
Bill XIX and Bill XX died of natural causes after each served three years of faithful service, in 1975 and 1978 respectively.
Bill XXI led the midshipmen to their best record in years, which included a 23-16 victory over Brigham Young University in the 1978 Holiday Bowl. He is also credited with two Navy wins over Army, which then brought the competition to 37 wins apiece for the two arch rivals.
Bill XXXIII and Bill XXXIV retired after the 2015 football season.
Bill XXXV died in August 2016 due to illness.
Bill XXXVII joined the Naval Academy family in the late fall of 2016.
The current Bill the Goats are Bill XXXVI and Bill XXXVII. Both will attend the 2016 Army-Navy Football Game.