NCAA Goes All Out for College Basketball Opener as NBA Lockout Continues

Carrier Classic Brings a Little Madness to November

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With the NBA locked out, Friday's NCAA season opener will be America's first significant basketball game since June. And the Veterans Day event, dubbed the Quicken Loans Carrier Classic, is looking to bring a little madness to college hoops' first game of the season.

Michigan State and North Carolina will kick off the season on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson -- the ship that threw Osama bin Laden's body into the ocean -- playing on a court constructed specifically for the occasion. Retired NBA stars Magic Johnson and James Worthy will act as honorary captains for their respective alma maters. Five For Fighting, Billy Currington and B. Taylor will cap off the festivities with performances.

Oh, and fan-in-chief Barack Obama himself will be in attendance.

The deck of the USS Carl Vinson is prepared for the Quicken Loans Carrier Classic.
The deck of the USS Carl Vinson is prepared for the Quicken Loans Carrier Classic.

For college basketball and the U.S. Navy, the event will serve as a one-of -a-kind cross-promotion. The Navy is no stranger to sports advertising, in its quest to reach the young male demographic. In addition to the Navy, Quicken Loans, which is based in Michigan, offers VA loans, has a division in North Carolina, and partners with Magic Johnson, jumped on as a sponsor. The company declined to name the amount paid for the title spot, but an event organizer said that the sponsors collectively covered more than $3 million in operations costs.

State Farm, another heavy presence in sports, is sponsoring a halftime game of H-O-R-S-E with James Worthy, Mario Lopez, Brooklyn Decker, and the winner of an upcoming eBay auction. Event organizer Morale Entertainment says all proceeds will go to charity. The game's letters will be changed to V-I-N-S-O-N in tribute to the ship.

Morale is an organization dedicated to "entertaining and celebrating the men and women of the Armed forces," previously bringing the likes of Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan to visit troops. Mr. Kinnear describes the fruition of the Carrier Classic as a "completion of a vision" for the non-profit.

Other sponsors include Sears, Coke Zero, Miller High Life, Westwood One and upcoming film "Act of Valor."

The biggest winner, however, may well be Barack Obama. With just under a year to go until Election Day, he'll get to watch his favorite sport while paying tribute to veterans and reminding the nation that he nabbed bin Laden. James Worthy challenged the president to a game of 1-on-1 -- it's anyone's guess whether the president will accept.

Dick Vitale and Hannah Storm will cover the game for ESPN. Mario Lopez and Maria Menounos will emcee. The game begins at 7 p.m. EST.

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