SBD/November 12, 2012/Events and Attractions

Two Of Three Scheduled Men's Aircraft Carrier Games Canceled For Safety Issues

Officials canceled the Marquette-Ohio State Carrier Classic Friday night after "condensation on the court made it unsafe," according to a front-page piece by Jeff Hartsell of the Charleston POST & COURIER. The men's basketball game, scheduled to start at 7:00pm ET on the USS Yorktown, was “called off after a delay of almost an hour.” Game officials “conferred with both coaches and athletic directors from both schools before the decision was announced.” After the game was called off, players from both teams “mingled with fans and military personnel, signing autographs and posing for pictures. Event promoter Mike Whalen said that he was “not sure if purchased tickets would be refunded, but said more than 85 percent of the tickets for the Classic were given away.” Whalen said that Carrier Classic officials “had arranged to use The Citadel’s McAlister Field House in case of rain.” Whalen: “But there was zero percent chance of rain today.” Ohio State coach Thad Matta and Marquette coach Buzz Williams said that the cancellation “would not deter them from taking part in similar events in the future.” The 4:00pm Notre Dame-Ohio State women’s game “went off without a hitch" (Charleston POST & COURIER, 11/10). In Columbus, Bob Baptist noted “falling temperatures as night fell created the problem, which no amount of mopping could solve.” Whalen said visited the ship Thursday and noted the "winds were quite a bit higher, but we didn’t see any real accumulation” of condensation on the court. He added, “I suspect some of it was (because of) the fact it was a rather warm day today and, obviously, when the court gets exposed to a lot of sunlight, it warms up.” Whalen said that the decision to cancel the game “was his.” Whalen: “I didn’t want it on my conscience to have some kid break his leg. It just wasn’t worth it. As much as I wanted to have it … it’d be on me if I let it happen. I wasn’t going to let it happen” (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 11/10).

CANCELLATION NOTICE: In Milwaukee, Michael Hunt noted Marquette officials “were concerned the game would be called off as early as Wednesday night, when dropping temperatures caused moisture to form all over the court.” One member of the traveling party “spent 40 minutes on the phone with Big East Conference officials Friday afternoon to reinforce the stance that the Golden Eagles would not play if it meant putting any of their players at risk.” Williams said that he was “all for moving the game indoors ... as early as Wednesday when he learned of the court issues.” Hunt wrote, “Astonishingly, promotion organizer Mike Whalen said he wasn't even in town Thursday night to make the call to move the game. The decision to go forward on the Yorktown was unwisely made” (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 11/10). Marquette AD Larry Williams and Ohio State AD Gene Smith said that they are “open to scheduling another game, though not this season.” Smith on Saturday said that there was “no discussion about matching the teams again if there is a third Carrier Classic next year” (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 11/11).

ANOTHER SCRAPPED: In Jacksonville, Garry Smits noted the second half of the Florida-Georgetown Navy-Marine Corps Classic basketball game Friday aboard the USS Bataan also was canceled "because the chilly night produced moisture on the court that was deemed unsafe for play to continue.” After the cancellation, players from both teams “mingled with the Bataan sailors for more than 30 minutes, taking pictures and signing autographs.” Jacksonville Sports & Entertainment Exec Dir Alan Verlander said that the issue of “what time of day to play the game will be studied.” NBC Sports Network “dictated the time of game as part of a double-header with Ohio State vs. Marquette.” Verlander said, “We’d be re-examing how things went whether the game was completed or not. Do we change the time? Maybe. You never know what the weather is going to be like. But we’re going to go back, figure it out and make it work.” Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown vowed that the event "would return.” Brown: “It was a great way to unite the city and community on a world stage and support our men and women of the military. It’s going to be a tradition. I want to see this happen every year" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 11/11). In Gainesville, Kevin Brockway noted Florida coach Billy Donovan and Georgetown coach John Thompson III “addressed the crowd after the game was called.” Donovan said, “We certainly want to play, but the problem right now, we don’t want to get anyone hurt. If you can understand how slippery it is down here, you would understand why we can’t play.” Game officials had “tested the court Wednesday from 9-11 p.m. and found no condensation problems” (GAINESVILLE SUN, 11/10).

MOTHER NATURE: Yesterday's Battle on the Midway between Syracuse and San Diego State was the only game on a carrier this weekend to be played to its completion, and in Syracuse, Mike Waters notes the contest on the flight deck of the USS Midway Museum was “all about the visual." The wind “blew shots off course, but it created an awesome sight as the flags lining the USS Midway’s flight tower rippled in the breeze.” But as "breathtaking as that visual was, the outdoor setting wreaked havoc on the performance.” The “blustering winds and blinding sun ... caused players from both teams to squint”  (Syracuse POST-STANDARD, 11/12). In San Diego, Mark Zeigler writes the Battle on the Midway “quickly degenerated into the battle of the mid-range jumper” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 11/12). In Syracuse, Bud Poliquin writes though the game was “dominated by Mother Nature … it was a fabulous one.” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said, “I’d play in this event again. I think it’s something that every program should experience” (Syracuse POST-STANDARD, 11/12).

SETTING SAIL? In San Diego, Chris Jenkins writes the wonder now is whether the Battle on the Midway was the “last such college game to be played on a carrier.” Only after the Midway game was “rescheduled from a rainy Friday night to a breezy Sunday did it come off -- and not without a hitch or two.” One of the shot clocks “never worked and the scoreboards above both ends of the floor weren't performing properly.” In addition, the game was “greatly influenced by a wind that basically made outside shooting futile.” But “every seat was filled Sunday and the atmosphere was well-charged” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 11/12). In a separate piece, the POST-STANDARD’s Waters notes with the "array of problems" the three carrier games encountered, it is "doubtful that there will ever be another.” The Battle on the Midway “had problems other than the elements,” and the game’s organizers “proved unfit for the challenge of such a complex event.” The clock on the scoreboards was “so unreliable that it was declared unofficial.” The official clock was “kept at the scorer’s table,” as the team’s scores on the board “were slow to update” (Syracuse POST-STANDARD, 11/12).

ABANDON SHIP: ESPN.com’s Myron Medcalf wrote the cancellation of the two games “was an embarrassment for the sport.” Player safety “wasn’t the first consideration,” as the event was “No. 1.” That is why game officials in both Charleston and Jacksonville “spent so much time seeking ways to skirt Mother Nature’s rules.” Medcalf: “This has to stop. ... We have all the evidence we need to terminate this movement.” However, college basketball has “formed an important and meaningful connection with our servicemen through its opening day festivities,” and that “should continue, especially with the season opener arriving before Veterans Day” (ESPN.com, 11/10). CBSSPORTS.com’s Jeff Borzello wrote it “might be time to say goodbye to aircraft carrier games.” Last year’s debut game between North Carolina and Michigan State “was fun,” but now it has “turned into an embarrassment” (CBSSPORTS.com, 11/10). SPORTS ON EARTH's Mike Tanier writes, "Next Veterans Day, we should honor America’s military personnel by not trying to play basketball on aircraft carriers. ... We should never try to play basketball on a boat again" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 11/12). YAHOO SPORTS’ Jeff Eisenberg writes under the header, “Weather Issues Demonstrate Aircraft Carrier Games Must Either Be Ended Or Mended” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/12).
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