Gonzaga, Michigan State to play on USS Abraham Lincoln deck in first aircraft carrier game since 2012

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Gonzaga and Michigan State will square off on an aircraft carrier this fall.
After a string of bad weather ruined several planned aircraft carrier games a decade ago, Gonzaga and Michigan State will bring the idea back this fall in San Diego. (Sandy Huffaker/Corbis via Getty Images)

College basketball is set to be played on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier this fall for the first time in a decade.

Michigan State and Gonzaga will square off on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln off the coast of San Diego on Nov. 11, the schools announced. The game will be the first of its kind since 2012, when a string of bad weather led to multiple cancellations.

The game will be part of the Armed Forces Classic, though this matchup will be the only one played outdoors. The USS Abraham Lincoln is currently on deployment.

It will be the second time that Michigan State has played on an aircraft carrier. Coach Tom Izzo and the Spartans played in the first game back in 2011 against North Carolina on the USS Carl Vinson.

"When we played a game on the deck of an aircraft carrier just over 10 years ago to help honor Veteran's Day, we thought it might be a once-in-a-lifetime type of experience," Izzo said in a statement. "I know our team, our players, our coaches and staff and Michigan State Athletics is very excited about getting the opportunity to play a tremendous program like Gonzaga on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and honoring all of those who serve in our military. …

"This opportunity to play on an aircraft carrier in front of men and women who serve in the military and are willing to put their lives on the line is 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 last time and I'll say it again, we're going to play one of the best teams in the country and we're going to be hosted by the No. 1 team in the world."

The 2011 matchup in the Carrier Classic finished less than an hour before rain poured in the area. The following year, only two of four scheduled games were played due to rain. One game in 2012 was called off after halftime because the court was too wet to continue.

While weather will obviously be a factor in the game this fall, ESPN’s vice president of events Clint Overby said they will have contingency plans in place.

"[This was] just an option that presented itself. There was no grand plan with it,” Overby said, via ESPN. “It was something that was made available in terms of a discussion and we explored it and found it to be viable. More importantly, we found teams who wanted to engage in that experience and were very understanding of the logistical challenges that could be presented.

"There has always been an intrigue from coaches and participating institutions to provide a thank you back to the men and women of the military. The number of teams that have lined up to play in these events, whether they be overseas or even domestically, that's been, in our minds, very well-received by the intercollegiate basketball community. So, we're excited about that."

This will mark the sixth all-time meeting between the two programs, and the first since the 2011-12 season. Michigan State holds a 4-1 advantage.

"We are extremely honored to be a part of the Armed Forces Classic," Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said in a statement. "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."

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