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Bruins in Paris

Holiday Bowl sues Pac-12 and UC Regents over UCLA football’s 2021 exit

Wasserman Football Center is pictured. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Matthew Royer and Jon Christon

June 3, 2023 1:42 p.m.

This post was updated June 4 at 9:57 p.m.

The Holiday Bowl’s parent company filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the Pac-12 Conference and the University of California Board of Regents for damages regarding UCLA football’s exit from the 2021 edition of the contest.

The San Diego Bowl Game Association alleges the conference and UCLA failed to accept responsibility for conduct relating to UCLA’s exit from the 2021 Holiday Bowl. The SDBGA claims that after failed attempts to settle with the Pac-12, the nonprofit organization had no choice but to file a lawsuit for uncompensated damages.

The lawsuit filed in the San Diego County Superior Court seeks a minimum payment of $3 million from the Pac-12 and the UC Regents.

UCLA backed out of competing in the annual San Diego-based bowl game because of COVID-19 protocols just hours before the contest was set to take place.

[Related: UCLA football COVID-19 protocols prevent team from playing in Holiday Bowl]

The SDBGA claims in the lawsuit that the game’s cancellation forced $3.6 million in lost revenue from ticket sales, $1.4 million in damages owed to the game’s title sponsor – San Diego County Credit Union – and $2.8 million in other miscellaneous forms of revenue.

Mark Neville, CEO of the SDBGA, said in an emailed statement that the organization previously attempted to settle out of court but was unsuccessful.

“We are, of course, disappointed this is how we must now resolve the dispute,” Neville said in the statement. “That said, we believe strongly in our position and will continue to work towards a positive resolution for our organization and community.”

The lawsuit filing states that the Pac-12 and the Holiday Bowl had a contract – agreed to in 2019 – that requires a conference team to compete in the annual event. Since no team from the Pac-12 played in 2021, the SDBGA claims the conference breached the contract.

UCLA was not a direct party in the contract but was “implicitly bound” to the same agreement with the SDBGA because of its status as a Pac-12 member school that had accepted the invitation to compete and performed in events before the game, according to the filing.

The filing states that the timing of UCLA’s departure did not give the SDBGA the requisite time for the group to recoup any damages with a potential replacement team.

UCLA declined to comment Wednesday evening.

[Related: UCLA football’s Holiday Bowl dropout demonstrates recurrent lack of transparency]

The Pac-12 said in an emailed statement that the SDBGA had leveraged the pandemic for its financial gain. It added that the SDBGA has not paid the University of Oregon $2.45 million for the school’s participation in last year’s Holiday Bowl, breaching the contract between the two parties for which it will seek its initial payment.

“The Pac-12 plans to vigorously defend against the lawsuit, which is wholly without merit, and to seek the monies owed by the Holiday Bowl under our agreement,” the conference said in the emailed statement.

The lawsuit revolves around the force majeure provision in the contract between the conference and SDBGA. The clause states that no party is responsible for breaches of contract related to any “act of God,” among other stipulations.

The lawsuit states that the Pac-12 used the clause to excuse UCLA’s absence. The SDBGA alleges that since the contract was agreed to in 2019 and never renegotiated, the force majeure clause should not cover pandemic impacts.

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Matthew Royer | Alumnus
Royer joined the Bruin and the News section as a first-year transfer student in 2022 and contributed until he graduated in 2024. He was the 2023-2024 national news and higher education editor and the 2022-2023 city and crime (metro) editor. He was also a Sports staff writer on the men’s soccer and softball beats and was Copy staff. He studied political science and minored in labor studies.
Royer joined the Bruin and the News section as a first-year transfer student in 2022 and contributed until he graduated in 2024. He was the 2023-2024 national news and higher education editor and the 2022-2023 city and crime (metro) editor. He was also a Sports staff writer on the men’s soccer and softball beats and was Copy staff. He studied political science and minored in labor studies.
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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