San Diego-based aircraft carrier to host college basketball game


Who expected to experience this again?

A pair of national college basketball powerhouses will meet on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier in San Diego. Gonzaga and Michigan State will meet Veterans Day on the Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier stationed at Naval Air Station North Island.

The concept came and went a decade ago, mothballed after four games (two in San Diego) overwhelmed by the elements, wet pitches that made footing treacherous or windy conditions that made shots look like 3 points to knuckleballs.

Try again.

The contest is to be confirmed today in a joint announcement from the schools and ESPN Events, which will host the game.

The 2022 Armed Forces Classic game on November 11 will be televised in prime time on ESPN.

“The opportunity to honor the men and women of the military and thank them for what they do always sets a great backdrop for Veterans Day and this weekend,” Clint Overby said. , Vice President of ESPN Events. “We are really excited and, frankly, honored to do this.

“It’s a combination of team interest, interest from our own network and, of course, Navy interest.”

Tipoff will coincide with the 33rd anniversary of the Abraham Lincoln’s commissioning. The aircraft carrier has been based in San Diego for three years.

The Abraham Lincoln was deployed in January and is currently in Hawaii participating in the Rim of the Pacific maritime exercise, which runs until August 4. It is expected to return to its home base at NAS North Island by the fall.

“Those who serve and who have served know that the military is the quintessential team sport,” Vice Admiral Kenneth Whitesell, commander of the naval air force, said in a statement. “I can think of no better way to salute our men and women in uniform than to celebrate this all-American pastime together on one of our nation’s capital warships.”

Logistics are still being determined, including spectator capacity for the event. Overby said that will be less than the more than 8,000 seats set up for the 2011 Carrier Classic game played in San Diego on the Carl Vinson aircraft carrier.

There will be no tickets for the general public, with seating limited to visiting military and some team assignments.

Much of the planning will focus on contingency plans for weather issues.

“There will definitely be a plan B that we will come up with later,” Overby said. “We are currently working with schools on what Plan B looks like in the event of high winds, rain, precipitation or whatever.”

ESPN Events premiered the Armed Forces Classic in 2012, though the previous eight events (it’s been canceled in the past two years due to the pandemic) have all been staged at US bases across the country and around the world. abroad in Germany, Japan and South Korea.

Could an emergency court be set up on a local basis?

“I wouldn’t rule out any particular location, quite frankly,” Overby said, adding, “Any time you’re outdoors, you’re dealing with strangers. No matter how good the predictive models are, you have to do in the face of some uncertainty.

“The good news is that the coaches, their administrations and the athletes are confident of the opportunity and want to move forward. They understand the disruption that could exist. In light of all of this, I think it’s a very good opportunity and that the schools feel the same.

In 2012, Syracuse defeated San Diego State 62-49 on the deck of the USS Midway Museum.

The game also took place on Veterans Day, in this case because the announcement was postponed for two days due to predicted rainy weather.

When the teams entered the field, windy conditions were at least partly responsible for SDSU’s 1-for-18 3-point shooting performance against the Orange.

Two other Carriers games scheduled that year, both on the East Coast, were canceled (including one at halftime) when condensation formed on the courts and made playing conditions dangerous.

On Veterans Day a year earlier – 11-11-11 – Michigan State beat North Carolina 67-55 in San Diego on the flight deck of the Carl Vinson.

Organizers planned to build a second pitch under the bridge in case of an emergency, but scrapped those plans midweek, rolling the dice that the weather would cooperate.

He did – even though the rain didn’t come until an hour after the final buzzer.

Clouds gathered together for a stunning sunset, providing the backdrop for a surreal setting. The crowd of 8,111, mostly military, watched from temporary stands on a ship which, six months earlier, carried the body of Osama bin Laden for burial at sea.

President Obama spoke briefly before taking a seat on center court for the 2011 event at the Carl Vinson.

Former Michigan State Magic Johnson was the honorary captain of the Spartans. UNC alum James Worthy represented the Tar Heels, stepping in because Michael Jordan had a prior commitment.

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo was a driving force then and now. In a statement, Izzo said the event will be an experience players will remember “for a long, long time.”

“I said back then in 2011 when we played in North Carolina on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson, one of the most humbling experiences of my career,” Izzo said. “And I repeat, we are going to face one of the best teams in the country and we are going to be hosted by the No. 1 team in the world.”

Gonzaga was ranked No. 1 overall in the 2022 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, losing 74-68 to Arkansas in the Sweet 16.

Michigan State was a seventh seed in the same West region, losing 85-76 to Duke in the second round.

“I give credit to these two coaches, as well as to the other coaches who have participated in the Armed Forces Classic over the years,” Overby said. “There is a higher purpose here.

“The opportunity to be in front of a mostly military crowd and participate in activities within the base setting, and to get a glimpse of life beyond what their life is, is something important. .”


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