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Air Force ROTC to host basketball tournament

| Friday, February 1, 2019

While ROTC programs on college campuses usually keep a low profile, Air Force ROTC cadets at Notre Dame will be flying high this weekend during the 33rd-annual Flyin’ Irish Basketball tournament.  

Started in 1985, the tournament was intended to promote a sense of camaraderie between ROTC members and their future fellow servicemen and women.  

Over the years, however, the event has become one of the largest ROTC sporting events in the country, boasting over 500 players from over 50 schools across the nation, according to a press release. Last year, over 800 cadets from 56 different teams took part in the tournament, junior cadet Andrew Brannon, the organizer of the event, said. 

The event provides a unique and important opportunity for ROTC members across the nation to bond. Brannon was dissatisfied with the idea that players would show up, play and leave. His vision for the event surpassed an ordinary basketball tournament. Rather, Brannon saw the event as a way for cadets to bridge their differences and interact before they were to be commissioned.

“We’re going to have those kinds of bonds when we’re in the military in the future so it’s a unique opportunity that we can all meet together and kind of see each other and interact before we actually commission,” Brannon said.   

Sophomore cadet Stephanie Zaccone agreed with Brannon, saying that the event was a great opportunity for ROTC students to see beyond their bubble and experience life beyond Notre Dame.

“It’s nice to get the opportunity to meet people from all across the country and see all the different things that they’re doing. But we all have the same common goal,” Zaccone said.

This year, the event will start Friday at the Joyce Athletic and Convocation Center. The finals will take place Sunday, when the men’s and women’s championship teams will be recognized. While teams may get competitive, the games are played with a friendly spirit, Zaccone said.

“I don’t think there’s anyone who’s too in their heads about it,” she added.

While all the games will be highly entertaining, the games played by the Scrappers promise to be particularly exciting. Comprised of Notre Dame students who may not have the aptitude to match their enthusiasm, the Scrappers team is just another example of how the event brings people together. Brannon, a member of the team in previous years, said the games are always a riot.

“I’ve heard that they’ve scored on themselves on several occasions,” Zaccone said.

Although the Scrappers have a slight chance to bring home the iron, other teams can dream about winning the championship and prizes. Last year, Ohio State Air Force won the men’s division, while Marquette Army took home the women’s prize, according to the press release. 

The winning championship teams will be awarded trophies and, of course, bragging rights, Zaccone said.

Since starting work on this huge project as early as May, Brannon said he is excited to see his efforts pay off in another successful year. Despite the extensive preparations and effort required from him as the event organizer, Brannon believes it will all be worth it.

“When the championship game ends and they’re sitting there, and they have their big banner and trophy hoisted high, it makes it worth it, all the work we put in, all the long hours, just seeing the smiles on people’s faces, that’s big,” he said.

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