The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Aircraft carrier game trend may have come to an abrupt end after only two years

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Marquette and Ohio State players scramble to dry off the court at last year's Carrier Classic (Getty Images)

Despite heavy rain delaying tipoff of their game aboard the USS Midway for two days last November and gusts of wind wreaking havoc on outside shooting, San Diego State's Steve Fisher and Syracuse's Jim Boeheim both expressed hope there would be more Veteran's Day weekend aircraft carrier games in the future.

For right now, however, it appears they may not get their wish.

Morale Entertainment's Mike Whalen, whose company staged the inaugural Carrier Classic in 2011 and two other games last year, said Thursday he does not intend to hold a basketball game on a ship this November. A spokesman for the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum said there are no plans to play a game on the USS Yorktown this year, while USS Midway Museum officials said there will be no Battle on the Midway sequel either.

"Hosting the SDSU-Syracuse game last year was a huge source of pride for both the USS Midway Museum and San Diego," USS Midway Museum marketing director Scott McGaugh said. "We also experienced firsthand the logistical challenges and oceanfront weather variables that make the concept difficult to reliably execute. So we've decided to take a year and evaluate various options based on our first year's experience."

Unless there's another party who makes a late push to try to set up a game, it appears the trend of games on ships will go on hiatus next season, probably a wise idea considering the weather issues that plagued last year's set of games.

One didn't start: The Nov. 9 matchup between Ohio State and Marquette was canceled about an hour after it was supposed to tip off because condensation made the court aboard the USS Yorktown too slick. Another didn't finish: Organizers called the game between Florida and Georgetown at halftime that same night because the floor aboard the USS Bataan had also become too wet.

Even the delayed game between San Diego State and Syracuse also had weather-related issues, though it was played under a cloudless sky aboard the USS Midway once the rain finally relented. A San Diego State team that relied on its perimeter game shot 1 of 18 from 3-point range and 14 of 33 from the foul line, unable to get to the rim against Syracuse's packed-in zone and unable to shoot straight as a result of the gusty ocean breeze.

Concerns about player safety on slick floors and quality of play in blustery conditions appear to have spelled the end for a trend that began with great promise in 2011. The inaugural aircraft carrier game between North Carolina and Michigan State aboard the USS Carl Vinson in San Diego provided picturesque views, huge TV ratings and lasting memories for the players, coaches and military servicemen aboard the ship.

The challenge for college basketball will be finding another way to replace the pizzazz the aircraft carrier games brought to the sport's opening weekend, which traditionally has lacked the blockbuster games needed to lure attention from football in mid-November.

None of the three marquee opening night matchups announced for this season so far will move the needle nationally the way Michigan State-North Carolina did two years ago.

Georgetown will meet Oregon in the Armed Forces Classic at a yet to be announced military base. Maryland and UConn will square off on a neutral court in Brooklyn. And Colorado-Baylor will highlight a quadruple header at American Airlines Center in Dallas, host city for the Final Four.

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