Spartan Clash at the Palace

"Over the years, every game has been down to the wire against Oklahoma and a very tough battle. The Palace has been good to us, not because we've won, but because the people are incredible."--MSU head coach Tom Izzo.

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - ESPN Regional Television (ERT), a subsidiary of ESPN, Inc., will own and operate the new Spartan Clash men's college basketball event to be played at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

The one-game event will feature the Michigan State Spartans men's basketball team playing a different opponent each season. The inaugural Spartan Clash will feature Michigan State against Oklahoma Saturday, Dec. 6 at 12 p.m. ET and will be televised by ESPN. The 2004 event will pit the Spartans against the Stanford Cardinal of the Pac-10. Chuck Gerber, executive vice president and general manager, ESPN Regional Television, made the announcement.

"It is great for us to come out of the gate with such a strong match-up between two of the nation's premier basketball programs," Gerber said. "We're pleased to have a multi-year relationship with Michigan State and The Palace of Auburn Hills and look forward to bringing the highest level of collegiate basketball to fans across the nation."

Tickets for the 2003 game go on sale to the general public on October 10th and may be purchased by calling The Palace of Auburn Hills ticket office at (248) 377-0100. Michigan State season ticket holders were offered the chance to purchase tickets with their season-ticket renewals.

"All of us with Palace Sports and Entertainment are extremely excited about working with ESPN Regional Television and Michigan State to present great annual collegiate basketball match-ups," said Stu Mayer, senior vice president of Palace Sports and Entertainment. "Previous Michigan State basketball appearances, with the kind of electricity the Spartans and their outstanding opponents create, is truly something special."

Ron Mason, Michigan State director of athletics, said, "I am very pleased that our men's basketball team will have the opportunity to play at The Palace this season. The Detroit area is very important to our University as well as our athletic department and this provides a great outreach opportunity. As a coach, I always enjoyed playing games in Detroit in front of thousands of Spartan fans and alumni who can't always watch us play, and as an athletic director, I'll enjoy watching Coach Izzo's team play at The Palace in front of more than 20,000 fans."

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo is about to begin his ninth season in East Lansing where he has produced a 189-78 (.708%) record. In eight seasons at the helm of the Spartans, he has produced a National Championship in 2000, three Final Four appearances (1999, 2000, 2001), eight post-season appearances, four regular-season Big Ten Conference crowns and two Big Ten Tournament titles, while being named National Coach of the Year on three occasions. Last season, the Spartans advance to the Elite Eight, posting a 22-13 mark.

The Sooners defeated the Spartans 60-58 last year in the Touchstone Energy All-College Classic at the Ford Center.

"Our game with Oklahoma is one of the marquee events on our schedule," Izzo said. "Before the season even starts, I can guarantee that this will be a game between two tough teams who play hard. We've had some great, hard-fought games with Kelvin Sampson's Sooners, including last year's two-point game on a neutral court in Oklahoma City. I expect this year's game to be equally intense."

Oklahoma head coach Kelvin Sampson, beginning his 10th year as Oklahoma's coach, has guided the program to an average of 25.8 wins over the last six seasons and 27.8 victories over the past four. He has led the Sooners to nine consecutive NCAA Tournament berths, including a Sweet 16 showing in 1999, a Final Four appearance in 2002 and an Elite Eight appearance in 2003. Sampson has a 390-229 (.630%) career record, including a 214-81 (.725%) mark at Oklahoma. The current President of the NABC, Sampson has been named National Coach of the Year twice during his tenure with the Sooners. OKlahoma was 27-7 in 2002-2003.

"Anytime you can play one of the premier programs in the country -- and that's what Michigan State is -- on national television, we're honored to be part of it," Sampson said. "Jud Heathcote started things at Michigan State and Tom (Izzo) has taken it and run with it. When you think about the top programs in the country, that's a very short list and Michigan State is on it. To be involved with Michigan State, and with ESPN, is a great opportunity for our team."

Joe Castiglione, Oklahoma athletic director added, "December 6 marks one of the most anticipated dates on our 2003-04 men's basketball schedule. Competing with a program the caliber of Michigan State on a national ESPN stage is always special for our program. We've played the Spartans each of the last two years and both games were intense until the final horn. We obviously expect another battle against a great Spartan team coached by Tom Izzo, a man for whom we have great respect."

The Spartan Clash will be part of ESPN and ESPN2's extensive basketball coverage from mid-November thru March during the 2003-2004 basketball season. The match-up is among the more than 280 games televised by the networks each year.

Quotes from Sept. 22 press conference

Oklahoma head coach Kelvin Sampson

"It's an honor to be involved in this event because it is an honor to be involved with a program like Michigan State. When you think about the premier programs in the country, there are some that automatically come to your mind whether it's Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, UCLA - programs that have traditions. There is a new generation of kids growing up today. They think the elite programs start with schools like Michigan State. Especially since Tom has been there - he's taken the program to three consecutive Final Fours and won the national championship. Those things mark you. A lot of teams can have a good year. You can have a good team, but it takes something special to have a great program and that starts with the head coach and the administration.

"The thing I have learned in competing against Tom's teams is that he has great players, but he has unbelievable kids. Their integrity and the things they do off the court, that is what separates them."

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo

"I think it's a testament to both of us that we came from fairly good stock. We both give a lot of our credit to Jud (Heathcote). What Kelvin has done over the last few years, it's unbelievable, especially with the conference he's in (Big 12). It's no question that their conference may have been the best in the past few years. I think we both have kind of based our strategies in the same area. Both teams play awfully hard and the games have really become battles.

"What you really want from programs is respect. I know this summer when a couple of our guys, Paul Davis and Maurice Ager, played with one of Kelvin's kids (DeAngelo Alexander), they thought he played hard and I think that's just the nature of the business at Oklahoma.

"I think we've got some experience now, I think we do have some question marks - who we'll be playing, how we'll play. I think we have one of our more talented teams. A lot is going to fall the play of Paul Davis because we aren't as deep in that area. I kind of relish the pressure that will be put on us. We should be a pretty good team.

"Over the years, every game has been down to the wire against Oklahoma and a very tough battle. The Palace has been good to us, not because we've won, but because the people are incredible. Tom Wilson (President of Palace Sports and Entertainment) and his crew have done a fantastic job. Hopefully, this is a chance for Michigan State to get down to Detroit for our alums and our recruits. I think this is the start of something great. I couldn't be more proud or more excited to do it against such a great team."

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