The North Carolina-Michigan State Quicken Loans Carrier Classic took place “under mercifully dry skies” Friday, and the first college basketball game held on a Navy aircraft carrier “went from tip-off to final score without injury or incident, to the delight of the teams, sailors and even President Barack Obama, who watched every play from the front row,” according to Jeanette Steele of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. Fans started arriving “hours before” the 4:30pm PT start of the game, “happy to mill around on the flight deck and take photos of the spectacle.” Steele noted the “moist sea air accumulated on the court, potentially making it dangerously slippery” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRUBINE, 11/12). In Raleigh, Luke DeCock wrote after “all the anticipation, all the logistical concerns and all the uncertainty of hosting an event on such a grand stage, the inaugural Carrier Classic went off with relatively few hitches.” A “persistent wet spot on the floor near midcourt, perhaps exacerbated by the cool evening air, may have been the biggest snag.” MSU coach Tom Izzo said, "It was a lot better than I thought it would be" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 11/12).
UNIQUE CONDITIONS: The NEWS & OBSERVER's DeCock wrote the “atmosphere was as electric as it was unique.” UNC coach Roy Williams and his coaching staff “wore combat boots and fatigues, and players from both teams in camouflage jerseys with ‘USA’ on the back instead of their names.” Everything about the environment “highlighted the point of the game.” There were “no cheerleaders and no pep bands,” so a Navy band “played fight songs from both schools” (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 11/12). The “unique conditions caused the expected shooting difficulties, with the teams making only 13 of their 22 free throws in the first half" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 11/12). The NEWS & OBSERVER's DeCock in a front-page piece noted players from both teams after the game “removed their special camouflage uniforms and handed them to wounded military personnel who sat in places of honor with Obama” (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 11/12). In N.Y., Greg Bishop wrote the game “was ‘Top Gun’ mixed with March Madness combined with Veterans Day on 11/11/11.” Logistics were “another story,” as seats proved among the “toughest ticket to obtain in sports, because they were not for sale.” Since each ticket “carried the picture of its holder, there was no scalping, no secondary market” (N.Y. TIMES, 11/12).
NEW EXPERIENCE: In San Diego, Nick Canepa wrote the game was “like no basketball game ever played.” Canepa: “Certainly, one hasn’t been played out in a more beautiful setting.” It is an experience “unlike any other in the history of sports, great for the Navy, great for San Diego as a destination city” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 11/12). ESPN's Dick Vitale said, "The venue is probably the best I’ve seen in my 33 years working at ESPN. It’s just an incredible sight, it’s unreal.” ESPN's Dan Shulman: “For those who may be wondering, there’s no sensation that we are on a ship right now, it’s as if we are on land here aboard the USS Carl Vinson, this big sturdy ship” ("Quicken Loans Carrier Classic," ESPN, 11/11). FOXSPORTSCAROLINAS.com's Billy Witz noted the setting on the USS Carl Vinson was “equal parts surreal and spectacular.” It took “10 days to transform the flight deck of the ship into a 7,000-seat outdoor arena that was complete with high-definition screens at each end of the court, light standards, sponsor tents and an ESPN stage in one corner,” with the ship's 70-foot control tower “looming over the court.” The basketball game “was part ‘Thank you’ to the nation's troops, part photo-op" for the military (FOXSPORTSCAROLINAS.com, 11/12). In California, Jay Paris wrote the competition was “compelling and the setting was unbelievable.” Paris: “Basketball took a back seat to an event that was all about showing appreciation” (NORTH COUNTY TIMES, 11/12).
STICKER SHOCK: ESPN's Jay Bilas noted MSU F Branden Dawson during the first half of the game "slipped on that sticker in the middle of the floor" that contained the Carrier Classic logo. Bilas said, "That’s something that Tom Izzo has been complaining about for years, those stickers in the middle, on the floor.” Vitale said, “We’ve talked about that often. You go now to many of the arenas and those stickers are all over the place. They create nothing by a problem.” Bilas added Izzo has brought up in coaches' meetings that “if you can’t paint it on the floor, it shouldn’t be on the floor because a lot of coaches believe that those decals can present a dangerous condition for the players.” Vitale noted, “We don’t believe they should be out there.” The court had a large Quicken Loans Carrier Classic sticker in the center, as well as ones for Coca Cola Zero and Quicken Loans. ESPN’s Andy Katz later reported from courtside, saying, “We’ve already obviously had an issue with the logo and tripping on that, but there is some condensation.” Katz noted the officials told him that “there’s obviously a little sea air” and “it’s kind of like they’ve seen this before when they have an ice rink underneath the court, very similar to that" (“Quicken Loans Carrier Classic,” ESPN, 11/11). Izzo said, “We’ve got to get rid of those logos in the middle of the court. We have to. We can put logos on everywhere -- I’ll wear logos to support the people that sponsor us. But we have to get rid of them” (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 11/12).