Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Game of Tradition

     Last season on November 11th (The date was 11-11-11, by the way), the No. 1 ranked North Carolina Tar Heels faced off against the Michigan State Spartans in what was known as the Quicken Loans Carrier Classic. It was an idea originally hatched by Michigan State Athletic Director Mark Hollis and it certainly was one to remember. The two teams played aboard the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in San Diego with a gorgeous sunset cast upon the Pacific Ocean right before tip-off. United States President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama was in attendance (after all, he does love to take in a game of basketball) as was Spartan alumni Magic Johnson, Tar Heel alumni James Worthy and more than 8,000 servicemen and women. It was the first time in NCAA history that a basketball game had been played on an aircraft carrier. The end result of the inaugural event was a 67-55 victory for North Carolina and the crowd chanting, "U-S-A!! U-S-A!!"
     It was indeed a patriotic game, but it's also a part of the growing number of historic neutral-field games in college sports. Here's a list of some of the upcoming neutral-field games that I'll be looking forward to:

  • College Football: 2012 Cowboys Classic; September 1, Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Michigan Wolverines: Two college football programs with long, rich tradition steeped in their bloodlines. The defending national champions will kick off the 2012 season with a opening tilt against the Michigan Wolverines in one of the largest stadiums in the world, Cowboys Stadium. Led by their Heisman hopeful QB Denard Robinson, the rising Wolverines look to make a statement against Nick Saban's squad in Arlington, Texas. Both teams won their BCS bowl games last season. This should be a better game than last year's bout between LSU and Oregon.
  • College Basketball: Ramstein Air Base, Germany; November 9, Connecticut Huskies vs. Michigan State Spartans: Looking to build off of the success of last year's Carrier Classic, Michigan State AD Mark Hollis has proposed another special basketball game similar to the Carrier Classic. It's a battle of two legendary NCAA basketball coaches as Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo matches wits with Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun. The game will be played in front of 2,500 enlisted men and women and ESPN is planning on staging and televising the event. Another noteworthy match-up is between MSU senior forward Draymond Green and Connecticut sophomore guard Shabazz Napier. After this game, Michigan State will be playing the Kansas Jayhawks four days later in Atlanta. The season opener has just been approved by the U.S. Department of Defense and will be one of four games on naval ships. The others include:
    • Marquette-Ohio State in Charleston, South Carolina
    • Florida-Georgetown in Jacksonville, Florida
    • Syracuse-San Diego State in San Diego, California.
  • College Football: Emerald Isle Classic; September 1, Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Navy Midshipmen: As a Michigan Wolverines fan, I have to admit that this is the one game that I'm most excited for. Playing in Aviva Stadium in Ireland, Notre Dame is capturing more than the spirit of the Fighting Irish football tradition. They're celebrating the school's well-known Irish heritage as they open the 2012 season against Navy. Their 86th battle with the Midshipmen will start at 9:00 a.m. as they make their return to Dublin in sixteen years. Notre Dame will also wear cleats decorated with the Irish flag during the game. Seriously, how cool is that?? This trip will not only be a big game against a long-time rival, but it'll help Notre Dame players get in touch with their Irish heritage. My schedule for September 1st will certainly be booked.
     Other noteworthy games (all college football) include:
  • College Football; AT&T Red River Rivalry in Dallas; October 13, Oklahoma Sooners vs. Texas Longhorns
  • College Football: Two Straight Games at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta; August 31-September 1, Game 1: Tennessee Volunteers vs. North Carolina State Wolfpack; Game 2: Clemson Tigers vs. Auburn Tigers
  • College Football: New York's College Classic at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey; September 8, USC Trojans vs. Syracuse Orangemen  

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