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Official: Michigan State/Gonzaga men’s basketball teams to play on USS Abraham Lincoln

The schools made the rumored announcement official for a Veterans Day matchup in the Armed Forces Classic on the flight deck of CVN-72.

Quicken Loans Carrier Classic - North Carolina v Michigan State Photo by John W. McDonough /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

The Michigan State Spartans and Gonzaga Bulldogs have made it official. The two men’s basketball teams will play each other in the Armed Forces Classic on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, in San Diego Bay.

The game will be carried by ESPN and is expected to have a local tip-off time in the late afternoon in order to broadcast in primetime on the East Coast.

The game between the two programs could be top-25 matchup based on preseason polls. Michigan State and Gonzaga have played five times previously, with the Spartans holding a 4-1 advantage. Gonzaga's lone win came in a triple-overtime matchup as part of the EA Sports Maui Invitational in Maui, Hawaii in November of 2005.

As for this upcoming season, the game was rumored to be in the works last month, but was still needing a few final details to be ironed out with the United States military to confirm the scheduling would work out.

It will not be the only game played in a unique venue that day, however. Wisconsin will play against Stanford at American Family Field, the movable domed ballpark that is home to the Milwaukee Brewers that same evening.

The game will mark a return to the water by college sports for the first time since 2012. Michigan State played North Carolina on the deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) on Nov. 11, 2011 in a first of its kind event. UNC defeated MSU by a final score of 67-55 on that day.

However, a year later, two other men’s matchups that were scheduled and split between the decommissioned US Navy Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD-5) in Jacksonville, Florida between Florida and Georgetown, and on the decommissioned Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV-10) in Charleston, South Carolina between Marquette and Ohio State on Nov. 9, 2012, were canceled due to condensation issues on the court.

The Florida/Georgetown game was halted at halftime, while the Marquette/Ohio State contest didn’t make it to tip-off. A women’s game was completed on the Yorktown prior to the Ohio State/Marquette game between Notre Dame’s and Ohio State’s women's basketball teams in which the Fighting Irish defeated the Buckeyes 57-51, however. That game tipped off at 4 p.m. ET while the men’s game was not scheduled to tip off until 7 p.m. ET.

Syracuse and San Diego State were able to play a complete game on the deck of the decommissioned Midway-class aircraft carrier turned museum ship the USS Midway (CV-41) moored at Navy Pier in downtown San Diego two days later on Nov. 11, however. Following the failures of the 2012 events, the effort was abandoned for future attempts until now with a return set for San Diego Bay.

Pier L and Pier K, where active US Navy aircraft carriers are moored while docked in San Diego Bay, are directly across the bay from the Midway at North Island Naval Air Station on Coronado. The Lincoln will be moored at one of the two piers for the game between Michigan State and Gonzaga.

The flight deck of the USS Midway taken near the bow Feb. 11, 2022. The decommissioned aircraft carrier played host to a college basketball game Nov. 11, 2012.
Kevin Knight

The Lincoln is the fifth carrier in the Nimitz-class and was commissioned Dec. 27, 1982. The Nimitz-class began service with the USS Nimitz (CVN-68), commissioned on May 3, 1975, and ended with the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) commissioned Jan. 10, 2009.

The Lincoln will be back in San Diego Bay and able to play host to the game after being forward deployed in the western Pacific Ocean and adjacent seas since Jan. 3, 2022.

Over the course of its deployment, it also relieved the USS Ronald Reagan, the Navy’s only forward deployed aircraft carrier stationed at Piedmont Pier in Yokosuka, Japan, while the Reagan conducted summer air operations. The Lincoln is commanded by Capt. Amy Bauern Schmidt, the first woman to serve as the commanding officer of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier.