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Monday, March 4, 2024
The Observer

Air Force ROTC to host 32nd Annual Flyin’ Irish Basketball Tournament

The Notre Dame Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Core (ROTC) will host 56 teams and more than 800 students for the 32nd annual Flyin’ Irish Invitational Basketball Tournament this weekend. The competition has grown to become the largest ROTC sporting event in the country, Saint Mary’s sophomore and Air Force ROTC cadet Marta Kernan said.

“It started out as a group of [ROTC members] trying to get together and have fun, but more people just kept joining and joining,” she said.

Observer File Photo
Students compete in the annual Flyin' Irish Basketball Tournament last year. The event is the largest ROTC sporting event in the country and will include over 800 ROTC members from across the country.

The tournament will begin Friday, with the finals held Sunday. Early games will take place primarily in the Joyce Center Fieldhouse, while the championship game and three-point competition will be held in Purcell Pavilion. The championship will also be live-streamed for the first time this year, Notre Dame junior Natalie Petro said. An Air Force ROTC member, Petro was responsible for coordinating the tournament this year.

Kernan — who will be participating in the tournament for the first time — said she is excited to see ROTC cadets from schools from all over the country and meet new members as well.

“I’m looking forward to seeing everyone from around the country,” she said. “It will also be really cool because I have friends from the University of Dayton who will be coming.” 

Petro also said one of the best things about the tournament is the opportunity to make new connections. The event has grown significantly over the years, she said, and it is easy to find people who know about the event.

“It’s fun when you go to field training [with members of other ROTC programs], you get to appreciate it,” Petro said. “On the second day I mentioned the Flyin’ Irish Basketball Tournament, and two people had heard of it.” 

While the environment is friendly for the most part, it can get competitive at times, which Kernan said is likely due to the nature of multiple ROTC programs coming together.

With the tournament taking place in the middle of the Notre Dame basketball season, it can be difficult to find time for so many teams to play, Petro said.

“We try to schedule the tournament around the basketball program so that we can get enough courts,” she said.

Both a men’s and a women’s team are crowned as champions at the end of the tournament. Last year’s winners included the Texas A&M Tri-Military in the men‘s bracket and the Marquette Golden Eagles Army ROTC in the women’s bracket, but both Kernan and Petro said they are confident in Notre Dame’s chances at this year’s tournament.

While Notre Dame has multiple teams participating from all three military ROTC branches, Kernan said a group of cadets known as “the scrappers” are particularly hopeful this year.

“Scrappers are the players that are not on the ‘real’ [Air Force ROTC] team,” she said. “They’re mostly miscellaneous people, but they are great athletes.” Kernan, who is on one of the scrapper teams, said

Both Kernan and Petro are members of scrapper teams, and Petro said she is confident in her team’s ability to dominate the tournament.

“We’re going do great, of course,” she said. “We’re going to win the whole thing.”