Gonzaga, Michigan State To Headline 2022 Armed Forces Classic on Flight Deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln
ESPN Events will host the 2022 Armed Forces Classic featuring perennial men’s college basketball powers Gonzaga and Michigan State on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln in the San Diego harbor on Veterans Day. The game will be televised Friday, Nov. 11 in primetime on ESPN.
“We are honored to have the unique opportunity to stage the Armed Forces Classic on the USS Abraham Lincoln,” said Clint Overby, Vice President, ESPN Events. “First and foremost, we want to thank the men and women of the Navy, and the entire Armed Forces, for allowing us into their world to share their stories and to thank them for their service to our country. We will work with the teams, the Navy and our collective Events group to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for all participants and spectators.”
Positive Impact, an event management company that works on military-based events, will support ESPN Events with logistics and on-site assistance.
“It is truly an honor that, on Veterans Day in the centennial year of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, we will host the Armed Forces Classic basketball game on the flight deck of one of our most renowned aircraft carriers, USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). Those who serve, and who have served, know that the military is the ultimate team sport, and 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,” said Vice Adm. Kenneth Whitesell, Commander, Naval Air Forces.
The 2022 Armed Forces Classic will mark the second time the Spartans play in a game on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. In the 2011 Carrier Classic, Michigan State faced North Carolina on the USS Carl Vinson, also in San Diego harbor. That successful inaugural event included then-President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama sitting courtside for the game among the service men and women.
Michigan State also participated in the inaugural Armed Forces Classic in 2012. The Spartans played Connecticut at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany in a C-5 transport airline hangar.
“I know our players, coaches and staff, and all of Michigan State Athletics are very excited about the opportunity to play a tremendous program like Gonzaga on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln while honoring all of those who serve in our military. This game is big for our program, for Michigan State University and for the Big Ten Conference,” said Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo. “This opportunity to play on an aircraft carrier in front of the men and women who willingly put their lives on the line will be an experience that is going to mean something to the young men who will play in the game for a long, long time. I said it the time in 2011 when we played North Carolina on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson – one of the most humbling experiences of my career, and I’ll say it again, we’re going to play one of the top teams in the country and we’re going to be hosted by the No. 1 team in the world.”
Gonzaga is appearing in its second Armed Forces Classic after playing Pittsburgh in the 2015 event at U.S. Marine Corps Base Smedley D. Butler in Okinawa, Japan.
“We are extremely honored to be a part of the Armed Forces Classic,” Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said. “This is a special opportunity for our program to support those who fight for our country in our own small way. We’re excited to face an incredible program in Michigan State and a great colleague in Coach Izzo. I’m sure this will be a great memory for all of us.”
Owned and operated by ESPN Events, the Armed Forces Classic was created a decade ago as part of ESPN’s annual America’s Heroes: Salute to Veterans initiative, which dedicates a week of multiplatform programming for Veterans Day. Since 2012, this signature event has featured premier men’s college basketball programs competing on military bases and at Armed Services locations around the world. The 2022 game between Gonzaga and Michigan State on the USS Abraham Lincoln will be the first Armed Forces Classic event since 2019.