Unusual venues make nonconference games more memorable

Nov 10, 2022, 2:05 AM | Updated: Nov 11, 2022, 8:00 am

FILE - North Carolina forward John Henson (31) tries to block a shot by Michigan State center Adrei...

FILE - North Carolina forward John Henson (31) tries to block a shot by Michigan State center Adreian Payne (5) during the first half of the Carrier Classic NCAA college basketball game aboard the USS Carl Vinson in Coronado, Calif., Nov. 11, 2021. Two of the more notable games on Friday’s college basketball schedule are taking place on an aircraft carrier and in a baseball stadium. No. 2 Gonzaga will be facing Michigan State on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln in the San Diego harbor to celebrate Veterans Day. Wisconsin is playing Stanford at American Family Field, the home of the Milwaukee Brewers. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Two of the more notable games on Friday’s college basketball schedule are taking place on an aircraft carrier and in a baseball stadium.

No. 2 Gonzaga will face Michigan State on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln in the San Diego harbo r to celebrate Veterans Day. Wisconsin is playing Stanford at American Family Field, the retractable-roof park that is home to the Milwaukee Brewers.

Staging neutral-site games in non-traditional venues isn’t new. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo has scheduled games at many different sites over the past two decades.

“We’ve been ‘Outside the Box U’ for 20 years and other people are catching up,” Izzo said. “That’s good, and that’s why I didn’t want to pass up this game.”

Izzo’s penchant for this began in 2003, when Michigan State lost to Kentucky in front of 78,129 fans at Ford Field, the home of the NFL’s Detroit Lions. Soon enough, plenty of late-round NCAA Tournament games started taking place in football stadiums.

This won’t be the first time Izzo has coached a game on an aircraft carrier.

Michigan State lost to top-ranked North Carolina in November 2011 on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson as President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama watched from courtside.

Stanford coach Jerod Haase was a North Carolina assistant coach for that 2011 game. Now, he’s preparing his team to play the first basketball game at a baseball-only stadium since San Diego faced San Diego State in 2015 at Petco Park, home of the Padres.

“It’s an experience for our guys to talk about when they’re old like me, about how they played in a baseball stadium,” Haase said.

The offbeat settings come with potential obstacles, particularly when they’re outdoors. The roof will be closed for the American Family Field doubleheader that includes a women’s game between Wisconsin and Kansas State.

The 2011 North Carolina-Michigan State game on a carrier finished less than an hour before rain fell.

A year later, condensation on the respective courts wiped out an Ohio State-Marquette game aboard the decommissioned USS Yorktown in Charleston, South Carolina, and a Georgetown-Florida game aboard the USS Bataan at Naval Station Mayport around Jacksonville, Florida. Florida and Georgetown did play the first half before the game was scrapped.

During that 2012-13 season, a Syracuse-San Diego State game aboard the flight deck of the USS Midway Museum was delayed two days due to rain. And, windy conditions affected 3-point shooting when it was played.

The teams involved believe the opportunity is worth the potential drawbacks.

Gonzaga coach Mark Few jumped at the chance when the idea of playing on a carrier was proposed.

“Tom Izzo told me it was the coolest thing he’s ever done,” Few said. “I said, ‘OK, I’m in.'”

Wisconsin coach Greg Gard says his hopes of having the Badgers play a game at American Family Field started about 15 years ago, when he was an assistant coach and the stadium was known as Miller Park.

Various plans were discussed over the years.

“We were going to do a doubleheader basketball-hockey and set up ice in the outfield,” Gard said. “Everything was on the table at one point in time.”

Gard is about to realize that dream — minus an ice rink.

Wisconsin and Stanford practiced Thursday on a court that encompasses much of the ballpark’s infield, with baskets in the vicinity of first base and third base.

The pitcher’s mound was removed, and fans will sit in temporary stands courtside, as well as in some of the stadium’s permanent seats.

“Listening to our players as we walked up out of the dugout, what their reactions were, I think it turned out really, really good,” Gard said.

Wisconsin forward Tyler Wahl, who has attended just one Brewers home game, tried to envision just what to expect on Friday.

“I’m excited to see what it looks like with basketball, bringing a whole different crew of fans,” Wahl said. “Hopefully it will be cool.”

It might not be a one-time deal.

Brewers president of business operations Rick Schlesinger said he was hopeful that the contest was the first of many chances to host hoop games at the ballpark.

Gard says he’d love to see an NCAA regional at American Family Field, though it could be tough to host that kind of event in late March while still having the ballpark’s grass surface ready in time for baseball season.

For now, Wisconsin and Stanford are looking forward to a unique experience in an atypical early season game. Michigan State and Gonzaga feel the same.

“I’m a little bit old school and I believe the college education is much more than just what you learn on the classroom and the games themselves,” Haase said. “It’s all the experiences around them. I think this provides that.”


AP Writer Nicholas K. Geranios and AP Sports Writers Larry Lage and Bernie Wilson contributed to this report.


AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]

1 year ago

Joe Jarzynka...

Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]

1 year ago

FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...

Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]

1 year ago

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...

Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]

1 year ago

FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...

Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]

1 year ago

FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...

Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]

1 year ago

Unusual venues make nonconference games more memorable