NCAA Basketball Game on Aircraft Carrier Takes Off for Veterans

Jeanne Sager

aircraft carrierThe Carrier Classic is a go! The NCAA has signed on two teams to play the first-ever basketball game on a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier this fall. And guess when they'll be tipping off?

Veteran's Day, natch. And Michigan State and the University of North Carolina men will be doing the honors. Can you think of a better way for NCAA basketball to honor our servicemen and women than by remembering those who went before them?

The fact is, although it's just now taking shape, the game has been talked about for years. I found video from all the way back in 2009 with Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis talking about a Spartans and Tarheels match-up on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. He was hoping it would be played in the next three to five years, so they're right on time. Hollis said, "If we get that one done, it would be very special and done for the right reasons."

As if we need another reason to watch college basketball, right? But he's right. Ask a serviceman or woman what they miss when they're overseas, and like any average American, they'll answer "my sports team." Even with the advancements of streaming games on the Internet (thank you NCAA basketball for giving us all of March Madness online this year!), it's not the same when you're watching it after the fact because you're in Afghanistan or Iraq and the game is being played in a different time zone at Michigan's Breslin Center or UNC's Dean E. Smith Center. It's one of those ties that bind.

There's currently no word on what aircraft carrier will be made available by the Navy for the game, but game planners of the San Diego Sports Commission are working with the Morale Entertainment, a group that works to bring "quality entertainment to troops far from home." Permission from the Navy is expected soon, so the sailors can get their hoops fix.

What's particularly interesting about Hollis' several years old interview is that he noted that the school tries to plan road games for places where they expect to find fans -- so that the far-flung faithful can make it to a game. No doubt the folks at UNC do the same. Does that mean there's a cluster of Tarheel and Spartan devotees in the military? We'll find out on November 11!

Do you know a serviceman or woman with a college sports fixation? How do they keep up with their teams while serving?


Image via Official U.S. Navy Imagery/Flickr

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