The UCLA Bruins were set to play NC State in the 2021 Holiday Bowl, but the morning before the matchup, they withdrew. This, of course, came during the COVID-19 pandemic with the Bruins citing the illness as the reason for backing out.
The decision came just hours before game time, with reports claiming that the team cleaned out its locker room before letting anyone know its decision. Now, the school is being sued for it.
The Holiday Bowl has hit the university, along with the PAC-12 conference, with a $3 million suit for damages.
“A failure of defendants to accept responsibility and accountability for their conduct, which caused substantial damages to the plaintiff,” is alleged by the San Diego Bowl Game Association.
The bowl game attempted to find a suitable replacement for the contest, reaching out to East Carolina and San Jose State, but neither could make it work on such short notice.
The Holiday Bowl claims that the cancellation of the matchup cost more than $3.6 million in ticket revenue and another $1.4 million that had to be returned to the title sponsor. In all, the SDBGA says losses totaled close to $8 million.
As a result, the association withheld payment to the PAC-12 for the ’22 edition, which saw Oregon play North Carolina, as a way to offset its losses. It still says it was taking a loss on the ’21 cancellation but wanted to preserve the relationship with the conference.
Brett McMurphy of Action Network states that the refusal to pay led to the Holiday Bowl being sued about two weeks ago. Now, the SDBGA is biting back.
This is mostly due to the fact that even up to 30 hours before kickoff, Chip Kelly told officials that his team planned on playing. “If we’ve got 11, we’re going to play,” the head coach boasted.
Fast forward 24 hours later and that mindset had changed.
While UCLA said that COVID depleted its roster, most around the Wolfpack camp believe they were scared to lose the game. “They would have gotten their ‘a–es’ kicked,” one NC State source said.
“I really think they could have played,” the source continued. “Chip said the day before the game, they were definitely playing, even if they only had 11 players… What happens to Chip if we beat them, 50-10? Sure, that creeps into the back of your mind.”
Making things worse, UCLA reportedly had the audacity to call two weeks after the withdrawal and ask for the team’s bowl gifts. Instead, the Bruins and its conference got a lawsuit which will go down as yet another blemish on the PAC-12.