No public tickets for carrier game
Michigan State, UNC crowd will include 4,000 military personnel
SAN DIEGO -- The Michigan State-North Carolina basketball game on an aircraft carrier on San Diego Bay on Veterans Day will be one tough ticket.
If you’re Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson, no problem. If you’re among the approximately 4,000 military personnel selected, come on board. If you’re real tight with either school, you might have a fighting chance.
Otherwise, a seat in front of a TV is going to be the only way to see the first NCAA hoops game to be played on a flat top.
Organizer Mike Whalen of Morale Entertainment Foundation said tickets won’t be sold to the public. They’ll be free to those lucky enough to be chosen, and scalpers will be out of luck. Whalen said ticket holders’ names will be printed on the front, and ID must match.
“It makes sure that the right people are going to the game and that there’s no aftermarket,” Whalen said Monday. “It’s an added measure of security. Again, this is a United States warship. We’ve got to make sure we know who’s coming onboard the ship.”
Jordan and Johnson are expected to be the honorary captains.
For obvious reasons, organizers won’t know until much closer to the Nov. 11 game which aircraft carrier will serve as host. It probably will be the USS Ronald Reagan or the USS Carl Vinson, said Whalen, who’s spent time in San Diego meeting with Navy officials.
A court and stadium seating for about 7,000 fans will be set up on the flight deck. In case of rain, the game will be moved below to the hangar deck, with bleacher seating for the fans.
Each school will get 750 tickets, 400 will go to coaches participating in a clinic and 1,000 will go to the Morale Entertainment Foundation and its partners: the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Wounded Warrior Project and the San Diego Air & Space Museum.
Although the teams’ travel expenses will be paid by organizers, each school is giving up a home date -- and the money it would have made. Whalen said talks with ESPN to broadcast the game should be finalized this week. Tipoff will be shortly after 4 p.m. PT, and organizers also plan a postgame concert on the carrier.
San Diego was the logical port. “You can’t play basketball in November in Norfolk or Bremerton, Wash.,” Whalen said.
The game was the idea of Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis. Al Kidd and the San Diego Sports Commission approached Morale Entertainment Foundation about helping to stage it.
Even as officials are finalizing plans for this year’s game, they’re looking to make it a multiyear deal. Michigan State has an option to play in the 2012 game, possibly against Duke, Whalen said. Other teams that could play in future games include Texas, Ohio State, Florida, Navy, San Diego State and Notre Dame.
There’s a potential for a women’s game in 2012 or ’13, likely between Ohio State and Notre Dame.
“Veterans Day is sort of a somber holiday. We look to change that,” said Whalen, who served in the Marine Corps. “It should be more than a day off. It’s going to be a day to look forward to because we’re going to have a good time.”