A one-of-a-kind college basketball tournament will feature at least two SEC programs this fall.

The “Players Era Festival,” a Thanksgiving-week event on the Las Vegas Strip is generating a lot of buzz in the college basketball world. In addition to three days of games (off on Thanksgiving Day) featuring eight schools in 2024, the festival is set to feature live music and other events for fans. What’s truly setting “Players Era” apart from other “feast week” hoops events is NIL.

According to Matt Norlander and Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports, Players Era is offering some big-time NIL contributions. The eight participating schools in 2024 will receive $1 million payouts to NIL collectives. In addition, player participants will have the opportunity to sign long-term NIL contract for further earning opportunities.

Alabama and Texas A&M will reportedly be part of the 2024 event, along with Houston, Notre Dame, Oregon, Rutgers and San Diego State. The eighth team is reportedly being decided from a “small group.”

Tuesday’s report indicates that the above seven schools have signed a three-year agreement. In 2025, plans are to expand to 16 teams. Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, Michigan, Syracuse and Virginia have reportedly engaged in discussions for 2025.

Players Era has reportedly yet to decide on whether the 2024 event will be a single eight-team tournament bracket or two separate four-team events. The winning team(s) could collect

Event organizers are in negotiations with MGM for the games’ host venue(s), per CBS Sports.

Anonymous coach sums up draw of Players Era for teams

NIL is the leading draw of the Players Era Festival. While pay-for-play is against NCAA NIL rules, the CBS Sports report says Players Era gets around that by making NIL contributions for Las Vegas-area events featuring the players from the games.

Coaches and athletic directors are challenged by juggling boosters’ contributions to the athletic program and to NIL collectives. Under current rules, major universities’ athletic departments cannot give to NIL collectives. Boosters themselves must be the ones to contribute to NIL collectives.

One anonymous coach offered a colorful quote on why the Players Era Festival’s NIL approach appeals to him.

“If there are events where there’s an extraordinary amount of money involved, and there’s no donor fatigue involved in this, how do you not play in this?” one coach participating in the Players Era Festival told CBS Sports. “There’s not a decision we make that’s not NIL-driven. I’ll play in the parking lot of Mandalay Bay, just clear the f—ing check.”

With coaches and ADs happy to get NIL contributions from outside the usual donor pool, the Players Era model sounds likely to catch on, if it proves to be sustainable for the organizers.