SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) hosted NCAA Division I top-ranked University of North Carolina (UNC) Tar Heels and the Michigan State University (MSU) Spartans during the Quicken Loans Carrier Classic college basketball game on the flight deck, Veterans Day, Nov. 11.
During the press conference the day before, it was already touted by UNC, MSU, Morale Entertainment Foundation (MEF), and Navy representatives as a historic celebration of service.
"I think it's a great way to say 'thank you' to all the men and women in the service," said Capt. Bruce H. Lindsey, commanding officer of Carl Vinson.
The game marks the first time a collegiate basketball game was played on an aircraft carrier, giving 7,000 service members and fans of the two universities an opportunity to witness the inaugural event. Commander in Chief President Barack Obama and Secretary of the Navy Honorable Ray Mabus were also in attendance to witness the historic game.
"This is bigger than a game. This is bigger than Michigan State, UNC. It's a dream come true for us," said Tom Izzo, head coach for MSU.
"These men and women of the military are sacrificing - we're not. This is a celebration that is the United States of America - a way to say thank you and do something great together," said Roy Williams, head coach for UNC.
Navy teamed up with MEF, a non-profit foundation, to make the transformation from a warship flight deck - designed for launching and recovering aircraft at sea - to a world-class basketball arena.
"It's awesome to be part of something so big for our ship, help transform our flight deck, and then to be able watch the basketball game between these two storied teams is just a great feeling," Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) Airman Ted Casal said. "I'll never forget this."
It took concerted cooperation between Sailors and civilian contractors to make the game a success.
"Everyone has been incredibly helpful and it's been great working with the Navy and these Vinson Sailors," said Jeff Smitz, of McWil Sport Surfaces, Inc., the company who installed the hardwood surface the game was played on.
"This whole event has been absolutely amazing," said Oscar qualified documentary film-maker Steven C. Barber, who documented the entirety of the Carrier Classic from the start of preparation, laying the first plank of wood, to the final buzzer of the fourth quarter. "We've seen nothing but real professionalism from the Navy."
North Carolina beat Michigan State 67-55,. John Henson, the junior forward blocked a career-high 8 shots and Harrison Barnes added 17 points to the Tar Heels' offense.
It was the service members who felt like the biggest winners in the 11-11-11 Carrier Classic.
"I am so impressed with everything here," said Staff Sgt. Evelyn Polland, an Army combat medic, stationed at Ft. Irwin, Calif. "I'm on a Navy ship, watching a basketball game, and the president is right over there. It's awesome."
For more news, visit www.navy.mil.