June 15, 2012
GBK Hoops: Army open to carrier game with Navy
Some Army-Navy basketball fans might remember Dick Vitale offered a profound comment toward the end of last year's Michigan State-North Carolina basketball game played aboard the USS Vinson in San Diego with President Obama in attendance.
The long-time ESPN analyst said Army and Navy should be involved in such a game.
Specifically, Vitale, who was inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008, mentioned the Midshipmen and the Cadets, with their commitment to serve their country, deserved such an honor of playing before a crowd of servicemen for an event that benefits military families. He could have added Air Force, too, but his broadcast partners didn't pick up on the logical comment.
Vitale's words, unfortunately, faded into the night without a follow-up.
So what about having the military academies represented in a college basketball game aboard a Navy carrier?
"I think it's a wonderful idea," Army Athletic Director Boo Corrigan said. "Clearly, the one last year was absolutely wonderful."
The 2011 Quicken Loans Carrier Class came about as the brainchild of Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis, which was how the Spartans were matched with the Tar Heels as another elite basketball program to draw TV ratings and dollars. Quicken Loans, founded by Michigan State graduate and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, put up the sponsorship money to make the event happen.
Corrigan said there have been no formal discussions for Army or Navy playing in a carrier game, but the idea is on his mind and others. He added Army is open to a future event that could be organized.
"There is interest in our team doing something similar," Corrigan said. "As far as an Army-Navy game, that would be tough scheduling it with the Patriot League playing in the months of January, February or March and the weather between West Point and Annapolis. I don't think you want to take the traditional Patriot League games out of their place in the schedule."
But Coorigan didn't rule out an alternative such as perhaps a double-header with Army and Navy represented in opposite games.
Michigan State and North Carolina trotted out legendary players from their history to be on hand for their game with Magic Johnson representing the Spartans and James Worthy the Tar Heels. Army and Navy wouldn't be without some luminaries of their own.
Navy's David Robinson was an All-America for the Midshipmen, an NBA champion with the San Antonio Spurs and now a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame. Navy's Greg Sprink was an honorable mention All-America in 2008.
Army's history features college basketball's two all-time winningest coaches in Bobby Knight as a former Black Knights coach and Mike Krzyzewski as a former player and coach. Knight could make the event part of his ESPN broadcast duties, although Coach K would be presumably busy with Duke.
Army's Kevin Houston led the nation in scoring as a senior with his 3-point shooting. In John Feinstein's book "One on One," he posits legendary coach John Thompson made a mistake by cutting Houston from the 1988 Olympic team of collegians that lacked jump shooters. Houston was on night maneuvers at Fort Sill the evening the Americans struggled with their outside shooting in Seoul, losing to the Soviet Union in the semifinals and later settling for a bronze medal.
The 2011 Michigan State-North Carolina game was organized by Morale Entertainment, Mark Whalen's Atlanta-based company long involved in military functions such as tours by coaches and athletes to visit with troops overseas.
Morale hasn't planned a 2012 game in San Diego since a carrier won't be in port. But Morale is considering games in November 2012 and November 2013 in Charleston, SC, aboard the retired Yorktown or in Jacksonville, Fla., aboard an active carrier.
Hollis said last month Michigan State would like to be included in the 2013 game.
Hollis first began proposing an aircraft game before the 2003 Iraq war started, which subsequently meant none of the carriers could be reserved. Thus the first carrier game wasn't until 2011.
But the first Carrier Classic captured the sporting public's fascination after Whalen showed how such an event could be staged not only in the black but with the money raised to benefit military charities.
San Diego State's fans were upset when it was first announced Michigan State and North Carolina were playing in their backyard until it was explained the game was Michigan State's idea.
San Diego State has subsequently scheduled a game for Nov. 9, 2012 against Syracuse aboard the retired carrier Midway in San Diego, but the organizer of the San Diego State game didn't step up until Whalen showed how it could be done. When the San Diego organizer was presented with the idea in 2004 aboard the retired Midway, the cost was considered prohibitive.
It took Morale Entertainment's creativity to show others the way to put on a patriotic hoops day.
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