Anne Photograp News 2024

Will Thanksgiving be in Las Vegas or San Diego for Notre Dame men’s basketball?

Will Thanksgiving be in Las Vegas or San Diego for Notre Dame men’s basketball?

Will it be the sun and surf of San Diego or the surf and grass of a Las Vegas casino buffet during Thanksgiving week for the Notre Dame men’s basketball team?

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Until Tuesday evening, it was believed and long promoted that Notre Dame would play in the two-day, two-game second annual 2024 Rady’s Children’s Invitational College Basketball Tournament on the campus of UC San Diego. The tournament’s website has been selling ticket packages for months for the event, which also includes Arkansas, Brigham Young and Purdue, a team that has played Notre Dame 45 times but never outside the state of Indiana.

Do you think this could get some fans in the seats come November? That four-team field was finalized on October 23, 2023.

The tournament provided Notre Dame fans with a perfect ending to the holiday week’s tripleheader: two men’s basketball games on Thanksgiving and Black Friday and Saturday’s football game against USC, about 120 miles away on the 5 Freeway in Los Angeles.

Then Tuesday night happened.

CBS Sports reported that seven teams are lined up to participate in the inauguration Players Era Festival, an eight-team, three-game tournament over four days in Las Vegas, also during Thanksgiving week. That tournament will reportedly earn each participating school at least $1 million for the Name, Image and Likeness fund.

CBS Sports reported that this year’s eight-team field would have a chance to play in the 2025 and 2026 tournaments if/when it expands to 16 teams.

Seven of the eight teams in this year’s field have already agreed to participate. They include Alabama, Houston, Oregon, Rutgers, Texas A&M and San Diego State. All but Rutgers played in the 2024 NCAA tournament.

The seventh team that CBS says is “on board”?

Notre Dame.

College basketball rules limit teams to participating in one multi-team event (MTE) per season, usually during non-conference games in November or December. How can Notre Dame be in two places and two tournaments at the same time?

That is not possible.

So where are the Irish going? Nevada? California? Team spokesman Josh Bates said on Wednesday evening that there would be no comment from the Irish side until everything was official.

“We haven’t spoken to anyone from Notre Dame,” Mark Neville, CEO of the Sports San Diego group that manages the Rady’s Invitational, told the Tribune Wednesday afternoon. “I’m looking forward to having them in our tournament.

“Notre Dame is a huge piece of this tournament puzzle.”

Neville admitted he was surprised when he saw Tuesday’s report linking that piece to the tournament in Las Vegas, which could be officially announced next week.

“I don’t believe everything I read,” Neville joked. “Until we hear otherwise, we are going full steam ahead with Notre Dame as part of our tournament.”

Neville said one of the benefits of involving Notre Dame in this year’s Rady’s tournament, which debuted last season with two sold-out games at the 5,000-seat LionTree Arena, was Saturday’s football game in Los Angeles.

“What an incredible three days for a sports fan,” said Neville, who admitted he is a Notre Dame fan.

If Notre Dame ultimately terminates Rady’s contract, Neville will have to pay a fine. He does not want to discuss the financial details. In a story published late Tuesday in the San Diego Union-Tribune, Neville said each team participating would have to pay $200,000-$100,000 per game.

CBS wrote Tuesday that “some schools in the 2024 field reneged on previous deals with other MTEs.”

Notre Dame last visited Las Vegas for the 2021 Maui Invitational, moving to the desert due to the global pandemic. It last visited San Diego in 2022, where it came within minutes of advancing to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 before losing to Texas Tech.

Notre Dame will be playing basketball against someone sometime this Thanksgiving. Will it be in Nevada? Will it be in Southern California?

It’s anyone’s guess. Maybe everyone but Vegas, who, as they say, always knows.

Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on X (formerly Twitter): @tnoieNDI. Contact: (574) 235-6153.