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Purdue women withdraw from holiday tourney as Las Vegas Invitational fallout continues

Indianapolis Star 12/9/2022 Matthew VanTryon, Indianapolis Star
Purdue's head coach Katie Gearld, center, celebrates with Jayla Smith, left, and Cassidy Hardin at a time out during the second quarter on Monday, Dec. 5, 2022, at the Breslin Center in East Lansing. © Nick King/Lansing State Journal Purdue's head coach Katie Gearld, center, celebrates with Jayla Smith, left, and Cassidy Hardin at a time out during the second quarter on Monday, Dec. 5, 2022, at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.

The Purdue women's basketball team has withdrawn from a tournament in Las Vegas a the fallout from a Thanksgiving tournament involving the Indiana women's basketball team continues.

Purdue was scheduled to play in the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic at South Point Arena from Dec. 19-21. Dayton and Texas A&M also withdrew. Kelsey Long, vice president of women's basketball for Sports Tour International, told IndyStar the three teams were supposed to compete in a tournament hosted by Destination Basketball — the same group that hosted the Las Vegas Invitational — at The Mirage Hotel & Casino (the same place the Thanksgiving invitational took place.) However, Long said that Destination Basketball asked Sports Tour International in July if the three teams could join an already-scheduled invitational at South Point Arena, due to a lack of teams available to play in the originally-scheduled Destination Basketball invitational at The Mirage.

Long said Purdue, Dayton and Texas A&M did not hear about the change in plans until after the Thanksgiving tournament at the hotel, and dropped out due to a breach of contract.

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"I was copied on the emails of Purdue and Texas A&M withdrawing," she said. "It’s that they were supposed to play and stay at The Mirage."

Purdue did not respond to an IndyStar request asking to see the contract.

The Mirage, currently owned by MGM Resorts International, was purchased by Hard Rock International. Long said the ownership change will take place in mid-December, which could have led to some of the dysfunction at the Las Vegas Invitational.

"The Mirage event center, it was Thanksgiving week and they’d never had a basketball event in there," she said. "They didn’t understand the importance of what we needed, what had to take place when we have that level of competition playing, and they had been sold. The Mirage, those people might not have a job because Hard Rock had bought it. I don’t want to say they didn’t care, but it was very lax in getting things done. 

'A major miss':IU won twice, but Las Vegas Invitational was a loss for women's college basketball

Instead of playing in Las Vegas, Purdue will visit Texas A&M at 2 p.m. on Dec. 21 instead.

“After careful consideration, we determined it best to disassociate our basketball program from the event in Las Vegas," Purdue women's basketball coach Katie Gearlds said in a statement. "We are excited to keep Texas A&M as an opponent this season and appreciate the efforts made by both of our schools’ administrations in rescheduling the contest for Dec. 21.

"It is our hope that individuals inside and outside of women’s basketball can collectively continue to support the sport’s tremendous upward trajectory by focusing on the safety, welfare and elevation of its student-athletes.”

Tournament operations manager Brett Seymour told the Associated Press it's "better for us" that Purdue, Dayton and Texas A&M withdrew. Campbell, Cleveland State, Jacksonville State, Lindenwood and Utah Tech are still scheduled to participate.

"The five teams that are going to be at the South Point were five teams we already had," Seymour said. "To be honest, our other five are happy they aren't there anymore because they like it as a non-Power 5 event. We took those three to help. It's OK. It's really actually better for us because they're not there this year for that particular event."

The Las Vegas Invitational drew nationwide scrutiny due to concerns about accommodations and player safety.

Games were held at The Mirage Hotel & Casino in what resembled a conference room. Seating for fans was essentially nonexistent. Teams were reportedly not provided with towels and had to bring their own from their rooms. An Auburn player was injured in a game against Colorado State, and it took paramedics more than 30 minutes to arrive.

The lack of medical professionals onsite caused Moren and the IU coaching staff to consider not playing their second scheduled game of the tournament.

"As women’s basketball coaches, we’re trying to move our game forward," Moren said after Indiana beat Memphis on Nov. 26. "It felt like ... we’d taken a couple steps backward in this moment. We have an obligation to grow our game, and we completely missed on this opportunity. You have a lot of really good teams that are here representing their conferences. I see all these other tournaments going on, and footage of that. This was a major miss in my opinion in terms of helping to grow this game.”

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Purdue women withdraw from holiday tourney as Las Vegas Invitational fallout continues

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