Gonzaga to play Michigan State aboard USS Abraham Lincoln this November
July 14, 2022
On November 11 this year, the Gonzaga Bulldogs and Michigan State Spartans will be aboard the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and square off for the 2022 Armed Forces Classic. The teams will visit Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego, California, and will mark the first Armed Forces Classic game since 2019.
"It is truly an honor that, on Veterans Day in the centennial year of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, we will host the Armed Forces Classic basketball game on the flight deck of one of our most renowned aircraft carriers, USS Abraham Lincoln," Vice Admiral of the United States Navy and current Commander of Naval Air Forces Kenneth Whitesell said.
"Those who serve, and who have served, know that the military is the ultimate team sport, and 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."
More on this year’s Armed Forces Classic
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said that the program is honored to take part in the event. Izzo recalled the time when the Spartans played in the 2011 Carrier Classic aboard the USS Carl Vinson in San Diego and the Armed Forces Classic at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany the following year.
"This opportunity to play on an aircraft carrier in front of the men and women who willingly put their lives on the line will be an experience that is going to mean something to the young men who will play in the game for a long, long time,” Izzo said.
“I said it the time in 2011 when we played North Carolina on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson -- one of the most humbling experiences of my career, and I'll say it again, we're going to play one of the top teams in the country and we're going to be hosted by the No. 1 team in the world."
The Bulldogs also took part in the 2015 iteration of the Armed Forces Classic in Japan. However, the event had to be canceled following dangerous court conditions due to bad weather. Gearing up for this year’s event, Gonzaga head coach Mark Few called the game “a special opportunity”.
"This is a special opportunity for our program to support those who fight for our country in our own small way," Few said. "We're excited to face an incredible program in Michigan State and a great colleague in Coach Izzo. I'm sure this will be a great memory for all of us.”
According to the vice president of ESPN Events, Clint Overby, all parties have considered contingency plans in the case of events that would make either the game impossible to be played or the fifth Nimitz-class aircraft carrier unavailable.
Overby also explained that there was “no grand plan” regarding the event. Reportedly, all parties involved in the events, including the NCAA, explored many possibilities for the occasion and found this year “viable”.
Aside from the Bulldogs and Spartans, Overby said that several teams were lining up for the opportunity to play aboard the aircraft carrier.