SANTA CLARA -- The 46th Cable Car Classic got underway Friday night with the news that tournament co-founder and longtime benefactor Art Santo Domingo will not be part of the event in the future.

But Santa Clara athletic director Dan Coonan said the Cable Car -- which has featured the likes of Michael Jordan, Ralph Sampson and Steve Nash -- will be around for its 47th edition and beyond.

"Yes, we're going to continue it," Coonan said. "It's got a great tradition and it's certainly a recognizable brand nationally."

Still, Coonan conceded, "The lion's share of the funding will come from different sources."

Those sources are not yet identified, he said.

SMU and Wagner were meeting in the opening game Friday night at Leavey Center, with Santa Clara and Alcorn State in the second game. The tournament concludes Saturday.

Santo Domingo, 74, has been involved with the Cable Car since its inception in 1967. His financial contribution -- about $80,000 this year, he said -- pays for virtually every aspect of the tournament.

Santo Domingo said he and his wife of 48 years, Fran, both have faced health issues in recent years, and the Cable Car requires a great deal of time and energy. He also wants to devote money to help pay for the college education of his nine grandchildren.

"I'm backing down a little," he said. "A lot of (his financial commitment) will be gone. I hope they keep it going."

Santo Domingo said Santa Clara is free to continue using the Cable Car Classic brand.

"I'd like to see the tournament continue and kind of be my legacy," he said.

Coonan said he'd had a couple recent conversations with Santo Domingo. "We've known that at some point, for a variety of reasons, he would be pulling back."

Coonan said Santo Domingo's contributions have been invaluable.

"He's been great for college basketball, but especially for Santa Clara," Coonan said. "He's meant everything. So many people have gotten to know gim over the years, and they all love him."

Coonan said it's too early to know where the Broncos will get future funding. But he said the 2013 Cable Car already has been scheduled for Nov. 29-30 and that three teams are confirmed, although contracts have not been signed.

The Cable Car Classic is among the last of the big holiday tournaments that once dominated college basketball this time of year.

"When I was growing up there was the Holiday Festival, Dixie Classic, All-College Tournament, Far West Classic and the Cable Car," said SMU coach Larry Brown, 72. "Christmas tournaments are what they were about. That was phenomenal."

But they have become more difficult to stage in recent seasons because teams prefer to participate in events that do not count against the number of games they are allowed to play.

Those "exempted" events cannot include a "host" team that participates every season, except in the case of tournaments in Hawaii and Alaska.

Asked if the Cable Car might eventually try to secure "exempt" status by rotating the host among Bay Area schools, Coonan said nothing has been discussed, but anything is possible.

Early this week Broncos coach Kerry Keating praised the support Santo Domingo has provided and talked of putting together a special, expanded 50th Cable Car Classic in 2016, possibly featuring seven former champions.

"We'd like to do that," Coonan said. "We're focusing on what's going on right now."

Follow Jeff Faraudo on Twitter at twitter.com/CalBearsBANG.