In a lot of regards Army playing at Yale will be a spectacle.
Festivities will kick off on Friday night at Woolsey Hall. Marching bands of both schools will join together and perform a free concert beginning at 8 p.m. They will play patriotic music, game day classics and school fight songs.
Around 1,000 cadets will arrive by bus at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday. They will march from Marginal Drive across Derby Avenue, through the Walter Camp Memorial to and then clockwise around Yale Bowl, and on to the field.
It's tough to quantify an historical rivalry like the one Army has with Yale. They have clearly never be each other's main rival, but their proximity and their respective success through college football has given the Army/Yale series a life outside arch rivals and outside of the top level of college football. While that's not enough to justify giving the Bulldogs center stage it is a rivalry built on respect for the two football program's histories. The disclaimer to that is that Army and Yale have rarely crossed paths when both teams were elite.
That kind of rivalry is the essence of the sport to some fans, but less than a footnote to the vast majority of college football fans. I think it's a cool game, it gives us a week or so to look back at great games between teams that have had every reason to play, but due to modernization and monetization of the top level of the sport there isn't much value given back to either team other than a bus trip away game.
Army isn't doing anyone a favor by playing at Yale - in fact they've had to call in some favors considering their 2 FCS opponents this year. Not that West Point must act as stewards for the history of the game, but take a look around the Power 5 conferences... after realignment in the name of dollar figures college football fans are losing rivalries. Legitimate historical rivalries. Games like this - certainly a special type of game - will soon be replaced by series like Army/Umass.
A UMass series makes sense if only in the sense that Army is going to need some October and November games while most everyone else is playing conference games.
It's not the spectacle that the Yale game is (or was) but it's teams like UMass that give Army a chance to forge ahead as independents. There are traditional powers and traditional rivalries available in the FBS, and I'm glad to have Army's familiar old foe Tulane back on the slate. I've got to be honest, though - watching Army get smacked by Notre Dame every time they play has become football's equivalent of self-flagellation.
Army can't make a living off games like Yale, but they are right to embrace the Eli's and Cadets history. With that said; given the choice of opponents, Army should be just fine with UMass and other teams like UMass.