Time for aircraft carrier games to sail into the sunset

Buzz Williams seems to have enjoyed his aircraft carrier experience. (US Presswire)

Last season’s Carrier Classic was one of the cooler college basketball environments for a regular-season game in a long time, according to nearly everyone that was in attendance when Michigan State took on North Carolina.

It was played outdoors, the weather was great, President Barack Obama was in attendance – everything was perfect.

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Of course, the success of that game led to the proliferation of aircraft carrier games this season, with the number going from one special season-opener to a trio of outdoor contests. Friday’s schedule had three such games: Ohio State vs. Marquette in South Carolina; Georgetown vs. Florida in Jacksonville; and San Diego State vs. Syracuse in San Diego.

Things got off to a poor start earlier this week, when ominous weather forecasts forced game organizers to postpone the Battle on the Midway – SDSU vs. Syracuse – to Sunday. We should have known at that point that aircraft carrier games weren’t all lollipops and gumdrops. (I don’t even know if that’s a saying.)

The bad news continued on Friday.

Shortly before Ohio State and Marquette was set to tip-off, both teams noticed the floor was wet. Coaches, players, ship personnel and others all helped to dry the court with towels and mops – but the condensation kept coming back. Things seemed to be getting better, but after taking a break to see if the temperature went down, both sides agreed to call off the game in the interest of player safety.

Marquette coach Buzz Williams said they were waiting to see if the temperature went down three degrees. Considering one coach in the area told me it was “freezing” outside, I’m not sure it would have been ideal playing conditions either way. Also, if the temperature needs to dip three degrees in order to play a basketball game, it’s a bad idea in the first place.

As this was happening, there were already reports emerging from Jacksonville that the surface in the Georgetown – Florida game was wet.

The first half of that game, though, went off without too many problems. The deck looked slick, but Florida took a four-point lead into the intermission. That’s where it ended, though. Organizers, officials and both coaches met after halftime and determined the court was too wet to continue. They took an extended break in hopes of alleviating the condensation, but that didn’t work.

The game was called.

“We don’t want to get anybody hurt. We’re really worried about somebody getting hurt,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “If you were down here, you’d have a realistic understanding how slippery it is, and what kind of jeopardy these guys who are playing would be placed in.”

By my count, that’s three aircraft carrier games scheduled for 2012 – and three aircraft carrier games postponed, canceled or suspended. Sure, last season’s game was awesome – but people saw a chance to emulate it, and it’s leading to marquee games not actually happening.

Michigan State and Connecticut had the right idea by playing at an Air Force Base in Germany – there’s still the chance to do something nice for the military and the troops, without putting the safety of players in danger. By all accounts, the atmosphere in Germany on Friday was great – and there was no issue with rain, wind or court condensation.

When did playing indoors become so passé? People would have watched and attended the three aforementioned games no matter where they were played, indoors or outdoors.

It might be time to say goodbye to aircraft carrier games – or look into playing them during the day, when the Ohio State women played Notre Dame on Friday. The biggest problem is that there’s no guarantee the games will be played. As we’ve seen, even San Diego has its problems; last year, it started pouring just two hours after the game ended.

One aircraft carrier game was fun.

Now, it’s turned into an embarrassment.

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