SoCal Challenge MTE Brings NCAA Division I Basketball to San Juan Capistrano

Teams for the Thanksgiving week event include TCU, Cal Poly SLO, Fresno State, University of Idaho, Nicholls State, Pepperdine, Santa Clara and Utah Valley; Created by Veteran college basketball coach Steve Barnes and the Joe Lewis Company, known for producing events for the NBA, the NFL and the Academy Awards

San Juan Capistrano, CA, Aug. 11, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The inaugural SoCal Challenge was announced today, a premiere college sports experience featuring a range of events for athletes and fans, all hosted in sunny Southern California. Anchoring the SoCal Challenge is an NCAA Division I basketball MTE set for Thanksgiving week in historic San Juan Capistrano, at the state-of-the-art JSerra Pavilion. Hosted by the Big West Conference, the teams selected for the inaugural SoCal Challenge include TCU, Cal Poly SLO, Fresno State, University of Idaho, Nicholls State University, Pepperdine, Santa Clara and Utah Valley University

Games will take place on Monday, November 22nd, and Wednesday 24th (with a first round played at four host team sites the week before. See attached schedule). Major media partners will be announced soon.

Steve Barnes, who brings 30 years of coaching experience at the Division I Level, as both a head coach and assistant coach, serves as the Founder and Co-Executive Director of the SoCal Challenge. He has extensive experience organizing, running and participating in MTEs and he has also been running a highly successful International Prep Showcase in the Bahamas since 2018 with his company Travel Sports International. In looking to organize another MTE tournament, Barnes said Southern California was a natural fit.

“There are so many destination tournaments held each year at great locations,” said Barnes. “In 2019, I decided I wanted to start an MTE. I thought about starting one in The Bahamas or another Caribbean destination but then realized, ‘Hey, why not here in my own backyard?’"

Barnes, who lives in San Juan Capistrano, realized he had the perfect place right here. South Orange County is one of the most beautiful places in the world with miles of beautiful coastline, fantastic year-round weather and plenty of 5-star resorts. Top it off with The Pavilion @ JSerra, a venue many universities would envy, and the setting is perfect for a pre-season MTE.

Originally planned to launch in 2020, the pandemic delay gave Barnes time to keep developing his ideas and he added the Joe Lewis Company (JLC) as an equity partner. JLC has produced numerous tentpole events around the NBA All-Star Game, the NFL’s Super Bowl, Draft, Kick Off and Pro Bowl, and around the Academy Awards, Grammys and other globally viewed events.

“Since Joe and his company have come on board, our event has jumped to a completely different level which will pay major dividends for our future events” Barnes said. “The Joe Lewis Company is involved at the highest levels in the sports and entertainment industry. They have a talented and amazing team of people that will handle the broadcast, production, promotions, advertising, and corporate sponsorships for the event.” 

The SoCal Challenge will add beach volleyball and other sports in the future, bringing more people together to celebrate athleticism. 

To learn more about the SoCal Challenge go to

For media inquiries about the SoCal Challenge contact: Owen Phillips at

Teams, Schedule and Matchups:


TCU, Cal Poly SLO, Fresno State, University of Idaho, Nicholls State University, Pepperdine, Santa Clara and Utah Valley University

First round games played at 4 host team sites:

Utah Valley @ Pepperdine 11/15

Idaho @ Fresno State 11/15

Nicholls State @ TCU 11/18

Cal Poly @ Santa Clara 11/19

2nd and 3rd round games played in SoCal at the Pavilion at JSerra in San Juan Capistrano.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Game times TBD

“SAND” Division- Winner/Winner format 

Gm. 1 Cal Poly vs. Nicholls State

Gm. 2 Utah Valley vs. Idaho

”SURF” Division- Played in a Classic format (Pepperdine and Santa Clara are both in the WCC (West Coast Conference) so they can’t play against each other in the preseason) Note: NCAA waiver passed this spring due to covid allowed us to do this. 

Gm. 3 TCU vs. Santa Clara

Gm. 4 Fresno State vs. Pepperdine

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Game times TBD

SAND Bracket-

Gm.1 Loser Gm 1 vs Loser Gm 2

Gm. 2 Winner Gm 1 vs. Winner Gm 2

SURF Bracket-

TCU vs. Pepperdine

Fresno State vs. Santa Clara


The SoCal Challenge brings NCAA Division I basketball to San Juan Capistrano with an MTE featuring TCU, Cal Poly SLO, Fresno State, Univ. of Idaho, Nicholls State, Pepperdine, Santa Clara and Utah Valley. The November event is organized by veteran college hoops coach Steve Barnes and the Joe Lewis Company. For more information go to