|Ramstein Air Base, above, would host the first regular-season college basketball game in Europe. (AP)|
In May, when UConn gave up its chance to play on an aircraft carrier, I think most of us suspected something was up. Why bail on such a big event?
And when news trickled out that Michigan State's desire to play a game in Greece wasn't in the advanced stages, it was fair to assume forward-angled AD Mark Hollis would have a contingency plan in place.
Now we know what both schools have been conspiring over. ESPN.com reported Tuesday morning that the Spartans and Huskies will initiate their 2012-13 seasons in a most unusual, never-done-before way: playing overseas, in Germany, at an American air force base.
It's the latest college basketball game gimmick, the made-for-TV spectacle that will add to the build-up of early-season hoop.
The game is not yet set in stone, but would air on ESPN on Friday, Nov. 9, the first day of the 2012-13 college basketball season. The Department of Defense actually has to approve Ramstein (DU HAST MICH!) Air Base scheduled for the game site. At this point, though, with reports coming out and statements being given, it's just a matter of fundamentals and a few scribbles on contracts.
The game would be indoors, within one of the massive hangars. I once worked a wedding that was held in a hangar. Pretty cool vibe. I'm guessing hoops will be even better, especially if the ceremonies come close to what we saw happen at last year's Carrier Classic. (Would Obama make the trip over for this one?)
It will be the second straight season the Spartans start the season on an unprecedented stage. Last year it was Michigan State-North Carolina on the boat.
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"I asked my players if they wanted to do it and they were jacked,'' said Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. "Has a college team ever played a regular-season game in Europe? I don't think so. It will be cool. We're going to a base in another country. That's pretty cool."
[Michigan State AD Mark] Hollis said the game would be played in front of 2,500 to 3,000 enlisted men and women at the base. ... UConn coach Jim Calhoun said he couldn't think of a more appropriate place to play a game with the last official combat troops withdrawing from Iraq in December and the wind down of troops in Afghanistan beginning.
Izzo said the Spartans will likely leave for Germany late on Tuesday, Nov. 6, and return Saturday afternoon on Nov. 10, to East Lansing.
This scheduling sets itself up for some legitimate criticism against Michigan State/NCAA. The team will have three days between Germany and its Champions Classic game against Kansas Nov. 13. What's more, the UConn game will be played at 10 p.m. local time (4 p.m. ET) over in Deutschland.
It mirrors how MSU started 2011-12 with the UNC game off the coast of San Diego, then flew for a nap before taking off to New York for its game against Duke, when Mike Krzyzewski won his 900th. Michigan State lost both games.
"We'll play four days later, but who cares,'' Izzo told ESPN.com. "The players want to do it."
As they should. Those growing bodies can handle it. But I think a small sect of criticism will come in that we've got more of these November events pulling kids away from school, and so the facade of "student-athlete" gets its latest makeover. In the name of the sport, an international event is pretty fun, pretty cool and totally must-watch. But in the name of academics, it's just another money-making way to keep players out of class.