Basketball is back on the water. For the first time since 2012, the sport will feature a game played on an aircraft carrier as Gonzaga and Michigan State have finalized plans to revive the concept. The schools announced the matchup on Wednesday. The game will be played on Nov. 11 in honor of Veterans Day on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln off the coast of San Diego.
It could be a game between two ranked teams. Gonzaga is a lock to be ranked highly in the first week of the season. Mark Few's team sits at No. 1 in, while Michigan State is 25th. ESPN will carry the game, which will air in primetime on the East Coast and have a local tip-off in the late afternoon under the San Diego sun.
The Spartans and Bulldogs, who had to arrange the game with the help of the United States government and the Navy, will be the sixth pairing of college basketball teams to play a game on an aircraft carrier.
The previous five were part of the "Carrier Classic" series in 2011 and 2012. Michigan State's game against North Carolina on Nov. 11, 2011, in San Diego was the first of its kind and even had President Barack Obama aboard. On Nov. 9, 2012, Florida and Georgetown met on an aircraft carrier off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida. Their game was canceled at halftime, as condensation caused by humidity made the court too slippery. The same conditions also led to the cancellation of Marquette-Ohio State that same day off the coast of South Carolina. Two days later, on Nov. 11, 2012, Syracuse and San Diego State completed a game on the USS Midway off the coast of San Diego.
The ambitious concept of playing a basketball game on a huge ship was equal parts celebrated and derided. With games being canceled due to weather conditions, it became accepted as a fun-but-failed experiment. Until now.
"Those who serve, and who have served, know that the military is the ultimate team sport," Vice Admiral Kenneth Whitesell a commander in the Naval Air Forces, told the San Diego Union Tribune. "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."
The game marks the return of the Armed Forces Classic, which is an ESPN-led event that went on hiatus the past two seasons due to COVID-19.
Holding games on aircraft carriers is not expected to be an annually revived concept, a source tells CBS Sports. The opportunity arose for Michigan State and Gonzaga, and given Tom Izzo's Spartans program was previously involved in a similar game, the schools pursued this opportunity with cautious optimism. Every precautionary effort will be put into avoiding any kind of weather impacting the game.
With this matchup finalized, the Michigan State-Gonzaga tilt will be one of two men's college basketball games on Nov. 11 held in abnormal venues. Wisconsin will also play Stanford that night. The 2022-23 college basketball season begins on Monday, Nov. 7.