Oh! Gonzaga, Michigan State will play on the deck of the aircraft carrier
They’ll try to play college basketball on an aircraft carrier again, and nautical veteran Tom Izzo and Michigan State will travel back and forth to San Diego Bay to take on Gonzaga on the flight deck of the ‘USS Abraham Lincoln on Veterans Day.
The game will air in prime time Nov. 11 as part of ESPN’s Armed Forces Classic from the flattop docked at Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado, across the bay from downtown. city of San Diego. The Abraham Lincoln is on deployment and is expected to return to port later this summer.
The Izzo Spartans lost to No. 1 North Carolina 67-55 on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson on November 11, 2011, in the first college basketball game on an active carrier . President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama watched from the courtyard. The Carl Vinson buried Osama bin Laden at sea after he was killed by Navy SEALs in a raid ordered by Obama six months earlier.
It will be the first carrier game since 2012, when only two of the four games scheduled for this fall have been played, including one in San Diego that had to be pushed back two days due to rain rather than moving it to inside.
While the 2011 Carrier Classic took place in a spectacular setting, it ended less than an hour before rain flooded the field, one of the dangers that organizers face when organizing matches carrier hoops. Organizers said there would be a back-up pitch on the hangar deck in case of an emergency, but this pitch was never set up.
Izzo welcomed the chance to play in another transporter game.
“The experience we had in 2011 when we played in North Carolina on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson was one of the most humbling experiences of my career,” Izzo said in a statement. “Obviously we wanted to win and any game against a program like that is very special, but for me the game was more than just a win or a loss.
“This opportunity to play on an aircraft carrier in front of men and women who serve in the military and are ready to put their lives on the line is an experience that is going to mean something to the young men who will be playing in the game for very , a very long time,” Izzo added. “I said it last time and I’ll say it again, we’re going to face one of the best teams in the country and we’re going to be hosted by the No. 1 team in the world.
Gonzaga’s trainer Mark Few echoed Izzo’s thoughts.
“This is a special opportunity for our program to support those fighting for our country on our small scale. We are thrilled to be facing an incredible program at Michigan State and a great colleague, Coach Izzo. I am sure it will be a great memory for all of us,” the Zags coach said in a statement.
The aircraft carrier craze faded after 2012, when Mother Nature played a serious defense against the lockdown, at least on the East Coast.
In a Carrier Classic doubleheader aboard the decommissioned USS Yorktown in Charleston, South Carolina on Nov. 9, 2012, Notre Dame defeated Ohio State in a women’s match that began in the post- midday. But a men’s game between Ohio State and Marquette scheduled for the evening never started because of condensation on the field.
That same night, a game against Georgetown and Florida aboard the active duty USS Bataan in Gainesville, Florida, was called off after the first half due to condensation.
In San Diego, a game between Syracuse and San Diego State scheduled for the evening of Nov. 9 aboard the San Diego Bayside museum flight deck USS Midway was pushed back two days due to the rain. When played in glorious sunshine on the afternoon of November 11, a brisk wind blowing across the bay contributed to the host Aztecs making just one of 18 3-point shots in a 3-point loss. 62-49 against the bigger Orange and its zone defense. .
Clint Overby, vice president of ESPN Events, said all parties would consider contingencies in the event of inclement weather or world events that render the aircraft carrier unavailable.
He said returning to an aircraft carrier game was “just one option that presented itself. There was no grand plan with that. It was something that was made available in terms of discussion and we explored it and found it viable. Most importantly, we found teams that were willing to commit to this experience and understood very well the logistical challenges that could be presented.
“There has always been an intrigue from the coaches and participating institutions to thank the men and women of the military,” Overby said. “The number of teams that have lined up to play in these events, whether overseas or even domestically, has been, in our minds, very well received by the intercollegiate basketball community. So we’re thrilled about that.
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