A live SportsCenter telecast from the U.S. Air Force Academy and a college basketball game from a U.S. Marines base in Japan will be along the highlights of a week of programming and other initiatives across platforms Nov. 7-13 as ESPN recognizes Veterans Day with the company’s seventh annual America’s Heroes salute.
SportsCenter from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Col., will be on Veterans Day (Nov. 11), and the annual Armed Forces Classic college basketball game will be on Friday, Nov. 13, from Okinawa, Japan. In addition, ESPN2’s First Take will air live from Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee, Mass., on Monday, Nov. 9.
“As part of ESPN’s company-wide recognition of our veterans and active troops, we are celebrating the proud men and women of the United States Air Force Academy along with troops from all our service branches,” said Michael Fountain, ESPN senior coordinating producer. “SportsCenter’s celebration will focus on veterans as well as those preparing to enter service. By integrating elements across shows and platforms, and having SportsCenter’s presence at the Air Force Academy, we are providing fans diverse content honoring our veterans and men and women in the service.”
USAA and Applebee’s are sponsors of ESPN’s week-long Veterans Day activation and many well-known athletes, coaches and celebrities will provide daily “shout outs” to members of the military within ESPN programming, including Dabo Swinney, LeBron James, Nick Saban, Les Miles, Larry Fitzgerald, JJ Watt, Mike Tomlin, Robert Mathis, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Spike Lee, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Andrew Luck and Gus Malzhan. The tributes will appear on SportsCenter and other ESPN platforms.
SportsCenter segments from the Air Force Academy will be anchored by Hannah Storm and Kevin Negandhi and will air from 9 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. ET, with additional segments to air in the 6 p.m. and evening editions. SportsCenter elements will include:
- Live interviews with former Air Force football player and Dallas Cowboy Chad Hennings and Air Force football coach Troy Calhoun
- Veterans Day vignettes voiced by Gen. Colin Powell and Air Force Cadets talking about what honor and commitment mean to them
- Wings of Blue: A profile on the award winning Air Force Academy parachute competition and demonstration team, narrated by Negandhi
- Chelsey Sullenberger: Face to Face:. Storm sits down with the Air Force Academy grad to discuss the lessons he learned as a Cadet at the Air Force Academy and how some of those lessons helped him in the most critical of times: when he land crippled USAirways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River in New York City In January, 2009
- Legacy/Day in the Life: SportsCenter follows two Cadets who are twin sisters and tennis players during a day at the Air Force Academy from early morning to lights out. The feature includes a look at academy life and why the two all chose to attend the Academy
- Air Force Academy Firefighters: A team of Air Force Academy firefighters, including both Air Force Veterans and active duty personnel, is a world power at the World Firefighter Combat Challenge. Training and competing builds fitness, camaraderie and simulates skills needed on a call
- Essence of Flight: ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi wrote and voices an essay
- What Veterans Day Means to Me: ESPN national correspondent Sal Paolantonio, a Navy veteran, writes and voices.
ESPN’s “American Heroes” week also will feature:
Armed Force Classic
The fourth annual Armed Forces Classic on Friday, Nov. 13, will take place from U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Foster in Okinawa, Japan, and will feature the first college basketball meeting between the Gonzaga Bulldogs and Pittsburgh Panthers. Both teams played to the third round of the 2014 NCAA Championship. Pre-game coverage begins at 7 p.m. on ESPN in Foster Fieldhouse with ESPN’s Kevin Connors and Jay Williams, while Dan Shulman will have the call of the game with analyst Jay Bilas and on-court reporter Andy Katz. The game tips off the start of the 2015-16 college basketball season across ESPN platforms.
ESPN2’s First Take with Skip Bayless, Stephen A. Smith and Molly Qerim will be live Monday, Nov. 9, at 10 a.m. from a hangar at Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee, Mass. The show will have a live audience of military personnel as the hosts discuss the topics of the day.
ESPN.com will feature several Veterans Day-related pieces, including:
Joe Cardona – The New England Patriots long snapper still has responsibilities with the Naval Academy as he spends his rookie season with the Patriots. As Mike Reiss writes, Cardona has stepped right into the mix for the Patriots, balancing his work with the team and also his duties with the Naval Academy. He is often seen after games wearing his Navy whites. When he has days off, you’ll find him in Newport, RI at the Naval Academy Preparatory School.
Alejandro Villanueva – Jeremy Fowler writes about the West Point graduate and former Army Ranger who served three tours in Afghanistan made his first NFL career start for the Pittsburgh Steelers on Oct. 25 against the Kansas City Chiefs. He played tight end, wide receiver and on the offensive line at Army. He’s since gained 85 pounds and is an offensive tackle.
In The Gate Podcast – The backstory of Woodward Stakes winner Liam’s Map, with its strong military connection, is the subject of the Oct. 30 edition of ESPN.com’s “In The Gate” podcast. Liam’s Map is owned by West Point graduate Vincent Viola, former chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange and current owner of the NHL’s Florida Panthers. Viola named the horse for the silk-screen map given to him as a surprise gift by Col. Liam Collins. The presentation came during a Hail and Farewell ceremony where Col. Collins left his position at the Combatting Terrorist Center at West Point, a department founded by Mr. Viola. Col. Liam Collins was one of the 1st Special Ops to land in Afghanistan, where he used the map, after the September 11th attacks. Colonel Collins audio clip. Vincent Viola audio clip.
In addition, many of the features from SportsCenter’s telecast from the Air Force Academy will be available for viewing on ESPN.com.
The Saturday, Nov. 14, edition of ESPN College GameDay (9 a.m., ESPN) will include a feature on former U.S. Marine Hank Goff who now plays college football for D-II Concordia St. Paul. At 28, Goff is in his senior season as the starting defensive end for the Golden Bears and served four years in the Marines prior to enrolling at Concordia.
For the second year, a University of Texas fall softball game with the Sun City Veterans group (ranging in age from 64-82 and based north of Austin) will be televised by the Longhorn Network on Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. ET. Veterans will umpire the game during which a different group of veterans will be honored each inning including the Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, Army and Marine Corps. This is the seventh year the game will be played.
The Monday, Nov. 9, edition of SEC Now (7 p.m. ET) will include an interview with Vanderbilt safety Andrew Williamson, who was born in Germany and raised in a military family. The program also will include a feature about a military dad being reunited with his family earlier this year at the University of Florida and a piece about the University of Georgia honoring all of its lettermen who have served in the military. Also, the Wednesday, Nov. 11, edition of SEC Featured (9 p.m.) will have a heavy emphasis on Veterans and will include a feature on LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri riding with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds along with a feature on Kyle Carpenter, the youngest recipient of the Medal of Honor, and now a student at the University of South Carolina.
ESPN’s multimedia, Spanish-language sports brand dedicated to providing the widest variety of sports to the U.S. Hispanic sports fan via television, radio, online, print, and wireless, will run Veterans Day-related vignettes in Spanish across its platforms all week.
ESPN Corporate Citizenship:
In honor of those who have served, ESPN will be supporting Operation Homefront’s transitional housing programs for wounded military with a $100,000 grant to provide these veterans and their families a financial bridge back into civilian life as they are discharged from service. Veterans from Operation Homefront will be in the audience during SportsCenter’s telecast at the Air Force Academy.
ESPN employees will be stuffing care packages for Operation Homefront and have the opportunity to create video messages thanking veterans and active military members for their service.
Additionally, UP2US Sports will receive a $100,000 grant from ESPN to hire and train veterans to serve as youth-sports coaches in underserved communities.
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