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UCLA football COVID-19 protocols prevent team from playing in Holiday Bowl

Members of UCLA football gather ahead of the Bruins’ game against Arizona State on Oct. 2. UCLA will not play in the Holiday Bowl because of COVID-19 protocols, ending its 2021 campaign. (Kanishka Mehra/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Jon Christon

Dec. 28, 2021 1:04 p.m.

This post was updated Dec. 29 at 10:02 a.m. to clarify that the Holiday Bowl was officially canceled Wednesday morning.

The Bruins’ first postseason appearance in four years is no more.

Less than five hours before the scheduled kickoff, UCLA football (8-4, 6-3 Pac-12) announced it would not be able to participate in the Holiday Bowl against No. 18 North Carolina State (9-3, 6-2 ACC) because of COVID-19 protocols within its program. After a brief search for a replacement team to take UCLA’s spot, the game was officially canceled Wednesday morning, and the Bruins’ 2021 campaign is now over.

“We are extremely grateful to the Holiday Bowl, students, fans, sponsors and the people of San Diego for their support this week,” UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond said in a statement. “We are deeply disappointed for our young men in the football program that worked extremely hard for this opportunity. My heart goes out to them. The health and safety of our students will always be our North Star.”

Jarmond later added another statement on the game’s cancellation.

“With today’s COVID results, our medical staff deemed it unsafe for us to compete this evening. While we had isolated COVID challenges, we were still in a position to compete up until today,” Jarmond said in his new statement. “I am truly disappointed for everyone who was involved with the game … student athletes, fans, and staff from both UCLA and NC State that traveled to San Diego. Thank you to everyone for your support and understanding.”

The statement came after NC State coach Dave Doeren told reporters that UCLA had not communicated its situation with the Wolfpack until the game had been canceled. 

According to Bruce Feldman of The Athletic and Fox Sports, the Bruins’ defensive line was “decimated” by COVID-19 protocols. Feldman tweeted that UCLA had just two interior defensive linemen available as of Monday and that there were “more covid issues” Tuesday, ultimately forcing the Bruins to back out of the game.

Senior defensive lineman Otito Ogbonnia announced earlier in December that he would miss the game to recover from an injury, while senior defensive lineman Tyler Manoa and freshman defensive lineman Jay Toia were both also expected to miss the contest, according to the Los Angeles Times.

At least one Bruin was out because of COVID-19, with redshirt senior defensive back Qwuantrezz Knight announcing Friday night he was forgoing the game because of protocols.

On Friday, Coach Chip Kelly said he could not comment on the Bruins’ COVID-19 situation for the bowl game beyond Knight.

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Jon Christon | Sports senior staff
Christon is currently a Sports senior staff writer. He was previously the Sports editor on the men's basketball and football beats and the assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, softball, men's tennis and women's tennis beats. Christon was previously a contributor on the women's basketball and softball beats.
Christon is currently a Sports senior staff writer. He was previously the Sports editor on the men's basketball and football beats and the assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, softball, men's tennis and women's tennis beats. Christon was previously a contributor on the women's basketball and softball beats.
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