The last time Niele Ivey stepped foot in Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Missouri, she won an NCAA championship as part of the 2000-2001 Notre Dame women’s basketball team.
“I never had an event that I had to go back there to go into the arena,” Ivey said. “So it’s going to be actually really surreal to kind of feel that vibe again, because I know I’ll never forget that feeling of winning in that arena.”
Now, returning to the Enterprise on Saturday, Ivey hopes to lead her squad to a win against the California Golden Bears in the inaugural Citi Shamrock Classic. She will also be coaching the Irish in the first women’s collegiate basketball game broadcasted live on NBC and Peacock.
“It’s powerful,” Ivey said Thursday of being even a small part of the historic broadcast. “It’s the reason why I came back, and I always want to expose my team to incredible experiences and help mold them.”
The live broadcast will also feature an all-women broadcast team. And although the knitty-gritty of the broadcast is not Ivey’s main focus as head coach, she described it as a powerful moment.
“We have [an] all black broadcast staff I heard, [the] first women’s game on NBC and then having two first African-American female head coaches at the helm of two Power Five programs — Charmin Smith and myself — I think it’s an incredible moment, and I’m just happy to share that with my team,” Ivey said.
The game is also the first college basketball game broadcasted live on NBC since a Feb. 28, 1998, matchup between the Notre Dame and Providence men’s squads, according to an NBC press release.
As the game takes place more than 350 miles away from campus, NBC will host a watch party sponsored by On Her Turf (OHT), NBC Sports’ women’s empowerment brand, with Muffet McGraw confirmed as a special guest. The event will begin at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at O’Rourke’s Public House on Eddy St.
Senior and OHT Notre Dame ambassador Elizabeth May said the chapter has been working on the watch party all semester.
“I’m looking forward to spreading awareness of the platform, because I feel like everybody knows NBC Sports but not everybody knows about On Her Turf,” May said. “And I feel like the women’s basketball team is a great kind of team to use in conjunction for promoting this platform.”
OHT has several other collegiate campus ambassadors across the country that plan and host events specific to their athletic atmosphere, May says.
As a student-athlete herself, May says she’s seen OHT stick out in circles on campus as it specifically focuses on the empowerment of female collegiate athletes, especially in the time of NIL deals in college sports.
“When you find a brand like On Her Turf that’s trying to celebrate [collegiate] success, I think that’s even more exciting than just the generic brand deals,” May said.
The game Saturday also marks a homecoming for Ivey and Cal head coach Charmin Smith, who both grew up playing hoops in the St. Louis area.
With her son Jaden playing in the NBA for the Detroit Pistons, Ivey knows the importance of showing up for family sporting events. Ivey’s parents, siblings and nephews will be in attendance at the game, in addition to her high school basketball coach, she said.
In addition to a personal homecoming, Ivey says she’s looking forward to showing her team where she got her start.
“I get a chance to bring [my players] home to show them my roots,” she said. “My journey was not easy, so I get a chance to show them what hard work looks like, what sacrifice looks like, and I’m excited to share that.”
Contact Alysa Guffey at firstname.lastname@example.org.