By Ryan Berenz
Here’s something you don’t see every day. On Veterans Day, Friday, Nov. 11, at 7pm ET, ESPN airs a college basketball game between Michigan State and North Carolina — a rematch of the 2009 NCAA championship game — played on the deck of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier U.S.S. Carl Vinson (the vessel that transported Osama bin Laden to burial at sea). It’s the Quicken Loans Carrier Classic 11-11-11, and even without all the novelty of being played on a warship, it’s a pretty decent game with the preseason No. 1 Tar Heels against the unranked Spartans. Docked in the San Diego harbor, the Vinson will carry a basketball court with seating for about 7,000 spectators, mostly U.S. military personnel. In case of rain, the game will be played below deck. ESPN’s Carrier Classic press release announcement after the jump:
ESPN to Televise Hoops Game from Deck of U.S. Aircraft Carrier
ESPN has reached an agreement with the Morale Entertainment Foundation to televise Michigan State vs. North Carolina in the Carrier Classic 11-11-11, the first men’s college basketball game to be played on the deck of a United States military aircraft carrier, on Friday, Nov. 11, at 7 p.m. ET. The United States military ship to host the unique Veteran’s Day event honoring the men and women in the armed forces is to be determined but will be positioned in the San Diego harbor.
As part of the telecast, ESPN will televise a special halftime entertainment show and post-game concert organized by Morale Entertainment Foundation. Specific coverage plans for the Carrier Classic 11-11-11, featuring a rematch of the 2009 National Championship won by North Carolina, are being finalized. A basketball court with seating for approximately 7,000 fans will be constructed on the flight deck. The game will be played below the flight deck in the event of rain. Tickets will not be for sale.
The Carrier Classic 11-11-11 will mark the first men’s college basketball telecast of the 2011-12 season on ESPN or ESPN2 (ESPNU will open the season with Coaches vs. Cancer matchups).
“We are privileged to be a part of this tremendous initiative honoring our veterans and troops,” said Nick Dawson, ESPN director, programming. “We commend Morale Entertainment, Michigan State University and the University of North Carolina and the United States Navy for their creativity and enthusiasm. It’s exciting to still be able to televise new and unique games after 32 years and more than 9,500 live game telecasts.”
Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo said, “I can’t think of a better way to start the season than playing in the Carrier Classic 11-11-11 on Veterans Day. The opportunity to give something back to those that serve in the military and their families is a humbling experience. On the court, the game will feature two of the top programs in America, but it also provides an opportunity for life lessons off the court, including those about the real meaning of sacrifice and dedication. As coaches and athletes, we are familiar with terms like wins and losses, but to our servicemen and women, those phrases have very different meanings. It’s a concept that first hit home during one of my trips to visit our troops in Kuwait, and one that I’ve carried with me since then. I’m sure that being a part of this game will create life-lasting memories for all involved. I know it certainly will for me.”
North Carolina Coach Roy Williams said, “It is an honor for Carolina Basketball to play in such a unique game that will benefit and salute the United States’ armed forces. We thank the U.S. Navy for presenting us with this remarkable opportunity. The look on our players’ faces when I told them they would be playing outdoors on the deck of an aircraft carrier was priceless. The experience will create for them a lifetime of memories. Even more important is the chance to combine the start of the college basketball season with saluting and thanking our military personnel for all they do to allow us to safely live and play each day in the United States of America.”
Mike Whalen, director of the Morale Entertainment Foundation, added, “From the very beginning, we felt the only outlet that could capture the significance of this event, and the excitement surrounding it, was ESPN. We are thrilled ESPN is joining the Foundation to honor the service of our current members of the Armed Forces and recognizing the service of the millions of veterans and their families who have gone before them.”
The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Wounded Warrior Project, the San Diego Air and Space Museum and the San Diego Sports Commission are assisting game organizer Morale Entertainment Foundation with various elements surrounding the event.