Quicken Loans Carrier Classic a Great Success on Veterans Day


The U.S. Navy provided the unique venue, legendary basketball teams Michigan State and North Carolina provided the matchup, celebrity hosts presented the halftime entertainment, ESPN broadcast it worldwide, and 8,111 Veterans and guests including President Barack Obama and the first lady enjoyed it all. The first ever Quicken Loans Carrier Classic staged on the massive flight deck of the USS CARL VINSON commemorating Veterans Day was a smashing success.

While the pre-season #1 ranked North Carolina Tar Heels outscored the Michigan State Spartans 67-55, the two teams mirrored the solidarity we share as Americans and the affirmation of the camaraderie and support the country has for its military on Veterans Day. The images of the president surrounded by vets sitting courtside to chants of “USA…USA” with the lights against the backdrop of the massive superstructure of the powerful warship were moving and unforgettable.

According to ESPN, the game was the cable network’s highest-ever rating for a game played in November. ESPN announced the game drew a 2.7 rating (3.859 million households), the highest-rated college basketball game in November since the network started keeping records in 1991.

“What a great day, we even put the rain on hold,” smiled event organizer Mike Whalen, executive director of the Morale Entertainment Foundation. “Our goal was to raise the bar on the types of entertainment and support we can provide the troops. When President Obama officially confirmed he would be here, the project took on a very special energy.”

“It was a privilege to be a part of this tremendous initiative honoring our veterans and troops,” said Nick Dawson, ESPN director of programming. “We commend Morale Entertainment, Michigan State University, the University of North Carolina, and the United States Navy for their creativity and enthusiasm. It’s exciting to still be able to televise new and unique games after 32 years and more than 9,500 live telecasts.”

A special halftime celebrity competition and post-game concert was sponsored by State Farm. A televised round of “VINSON” featured hoops shooting by contestants former Tar Heel and ex-Laker James Worthy, actress Brooklyn Decker, Navy vet/R&B singer B. Taylor and NBA star Tyler Hansbrough. State Farm presented a donation of $111,120.11 to the Scholarships for the Military Children's Program, the gift amount commemorating numerals of Veterans Day. Following the game the State Farm concert featured Grammy Award-nominate singer/songwriter Five For Fighting (“Superman”), and Grammy-nominated country artist Billy Currington (“People Are Crazy”). Navy vet/R&B performer B. Taylor sang the National Anthem.

“State Farm is thrilled to be part of this inaugural game to celebrate our nation’s veterans,” said Pam El, marketing vice president for State Farm. “The entertainment celebrates Veterans Day and is a great way to honor our veterans and active duty military. A sincere thanks to the men and women of our Armed Forces.”

“The Navy was honored to host what we believe celebrated the service of all veterans,” said Rear Admiral Denny Moynihan. The game showcased three great teams: Michigan State, the University of North Carolina, and the U.S. Navy -- America’s Global Force for Good. Basketball fans enjoyed the game as well as the opportunity to see it played on a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and learn more about the incredible sailors who proudly serve our nation every day,”
This first-ever event exceeded everyone’s expectations according to Jay Farner, President and CEO of Quicken Loans, Title Sponsor of the game. “To be part of an amazing event that commemorates the men and women who have, and continue to, put themselves in harm’s way in defending our nation, and experiencing the competition of two of the country’s most respected college basketball programs is an incredible experience.” We are thankful for the opportunity to have participated,” said Farner. “It was an honor on Veterans Day to recognize the service that so many have given to our nation.”

Many sailors echoed the same thoughts: “This was a special night and unique experience.” We’re leaving on deployment in a few weeks. What a great way to go!” “This was huge … we had power-ranking teams, basketball star power in honorary captains Magic Johnson and James Worthy . . . and the President of the United States.”

The United States Navy, the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Wounded Warrior Project, the San Diego Air and Space Museum, and the San Diego Sports Commission assisted game organizer Morale Entertainment Foundation with various elements surrounding the event. Corporate sponsors were: Quicken Loans, State Farm, Sears, Coke Zero, Miller High Life, The Newport News Shipbuilding , Applebee’s, Westwood One and the Navy Federal Credit Union. The upcoming film “Act of Valor” distributed by Relativity Media debuting in February 2012 was also a sponsor. The Newport News Shipbuilding Company presented a unique trophy made of actual ship parts to the winning school.