SAN DIEGO (KGTV) – The 2021 SDCCU Holiday Bowl at Petco Park was officially canceled Wednesday, nearly 24 hours after the UCLA football team pulled out of the game against North Carolina State due to COVID-19 protocols.
In a statement issued Wednesday morning, Holiday Bowl organizers said:
“Sadly we are announcing that the 2021 SDCCU Holiday Bowl is cancelled. We worked closely with Boo Corrigan and the fantastic NC State Athletics staff to try and find a replacement team for UCLA, but were unable to do so. We are especially heartbroken for the Student Athletes and, of course, our RedCoat and RedShirt volunteers and staff who spent so much time and effort into planning an incredible festival of events, culminating in a premier bowl game. We are so lucky to have tremendous relationships with our title sponsor - San Diego County Credit Union, FOX Sports, our civic and other sponsor partners and, of course, our fans. We also want to acknowledge and thank the San Diego Padres and the Petco Park staff for taking us in and transforming the ballpark into a world-class football facility. We look forward to coming back in 2022 and putting on one heck of a show!”
Early Tuesday afternoon, and several hours before kickoff, the Bruins’ football program announced the team was withdrawing from the game. The program initially cited “COVID-19 protocols” within the team as the reason for the decision.
"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."
NC State Wolfpack football coach Dave Doeren, speaking to reporters in San Diego, expressed frustration at the last-minute cancellation, suggesting UCLA should have been more open about the possibility of a COVID disruption.
"Felt lied to, to be honest," Doeren told reporters, according to ESPN. "We felt like UCLA probably knew something was going on, didn't tell anybody on our side. We had no clue they were up against that. I don't feel like it was very well handled from their university. It would have been great to have had a heads up so two or three days ago we could have found a Plan B. Disappointing."
In a statement posted on Twitter, Jarmond said the decision to pull out of the game was made following COVID testing results on Tuesday. Those results prompted the team's medical staff to deem it "unsafe for us to compete."
"While we had isolated COVID challenges, we were still in a position to compete up until today," he said. "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."
This year’s Holiday Bowl was set to be the first-ever football game played at the San Diego Padres’ downtown ballpark.
The Padres organization issued the following statement regarding the game’s cancellation and refund procedures for fans who were set to attend the contest:
“All tickets, suites and parking purchased through www.padres.com or www.ticketmaster.com for the canceled Holiday Bowl game at Petco Park will be automatically refunded. Suite holders will not be charged for any pre-ordered food or beverage. All refunds will be processed automatically with the card used at time of purchase being credited within 30 days. If tickets were purchased through a third-party site (such as StubHub and SeatGeek), guests should contact the site directly for refunds.”
City News Service contributed to this report