SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Tuesday's SDCCU Holiday Bowl game at Petco Park was canceled hours before kickoff due to COVID-19 protocols involving UCLA's football program.
The UCLA Bruins were set to take on the North Carolina State Wolfpack at the San Diego Padres' downtown stadium, but the game was canceled "due to COVID-19 protocols within the Bruins’ program," according to a tweet from UCLA.
"The UCLA Football team is unable to participate in tonight's San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl due to COVID-19 protocols within the Bruins' program," a statement from UCLA Football read.
“Disbelief!” Kristie Gill, a mother of NC State Player
“Disappointment. Tears. Frustration,” Monica Irby, a mother of UCLA Player, said.
It would’ve been a gratifying game for UCLA defensive back Martell Irby and his family who are from San Diego.
“He does it for his city. He’s a big community guy. So not being able to show everybody what he can do on the defensive side of the ball, I know it hurt him,” Daq Irby, Irby’s brother, said.
The timing of throwing a flag on the game hurts for parents on both sides.
“It’s like they can’t cancel it now, it’s too close to game time,” Gill said.
“But as we’re getting ready, walking out the door, in our cars, packing up, and the news comes through that we’re not having it, yeah, it kind of left us speechless,” Irby said.
Something fans are reeling from as well.
“I want to make sure that everybody on the team is safe, obviously that was number one. Of course, we’re really disappointed. I feel really bad for the NC State though, who probably came from all over,” Jon Livingston, a UCLA alumnus, said.
Kristie Gill told ABC 10News that she and her husband had flown in on Christmas Day for their son, Trenton Gill, who’s a punter for the Wolfpack.
“We were lucky to get here, you know, there were so many flight cancellations,” Gill said.
The school's Director of Athletics Martin Jarmond said in a separate statement: "We are extremely grateful to the Holiday Bowl, students fans, sponsors and the people of San Diego for their support this week. 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."
NC State said the team was "heartbroken" it would not be able to compete on Tuesday.
"Heartbroken to not be able to compete one more time this season. We were informed a short time ago that our opponent would be unable to play this evening," a tweet from NC State's football team read.
“You feel for everybody. I mean the people, the fans, the people here at the park. It’s a lot. There’s a lot of stuff behind the scenes that most people would never know about,” Mike Gill said.
In a statement, the San Diego Padres organization said: "We have been notified by the Holiday Bowl that tonight’s game at Petco Park will not be played due to COVID-19 protocols within UCLA’s football program. We are in communication with the Holiday Bowl and will issue further information regarding the refund process shortly. While we are disappointed that the game will not be played tonight, we look forward to future Holiday Bowls at Petco Park in America’s Finest City."
The SDCCU Holiday Bowl also released the following statement: "The entire SDCCU Holiday Bowl family is heartbroken that we were not able to play the bowl game tonight. We do not want to cancel the game officially until we have exhausted every opportunity to find a replacement team, and we are working closely with Boo Corrigan and his great athletics staff at NC State."
Irby’s mother says that there’s a bigger picture outlook to be had with the stands being empty.
“Protocols are put in place for a reason, you know, and sometimes we don’t have the answer right away. And it doesn’t turn out the way we want it,” Irby said.
“But, in the big scheme of things, it might be better. A few people got it compared to having the bowl game and then thousands of people get it.”
No further information about the cancellation, status of those involved, or how refunds would be handled was immediately released.