UCLA was forced to withdraw from the Holiday Bowl just hours before Tuesday’s scheduled game against NC State in San Diego due to COVID-19 issues with the Bruins’ program.
The school announced its decision at about 3:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday. The Bruins and Wolfpack were scheduled to play at Petco Park at 8 p.m. ET.
UCLA athletic director Martin Garmond said in a statement that he was “deeply disappointed” with the Bruins players, but stressed that their health and safety are of utmost importance.
The Wolfpack, who was attempting to win ten games in a season for only the second time in the program’s history, was the fourth ACC team to be eliminated from its game with the ball.
Although UCLA has several players who have not made a trip to San Diego for COVID-19 reasons, Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren said no one in NC State knew UCLA was dealing with more COVID-19 issues once the Bruins arrived in town To start preparing for the game. The first thing he heard about was when his sporting director, Beau Corrigan, told him the match had been halted – just minutes before the news broke on social media.
Doreen told a small crowd of reporters in San Diego that he broke the news at a team meeting in which his players expressed their anger, confusion and sadness.
“I felt lied to, to be honest,” Doreen said. “We felt like UCLA, perhaps, knew something was going on, and we didn’t tell anyone from our side. We didn’t have any evidence that they were against it. I don’t feel like it was handled well by their university. It’s great that we have Forewarning, so we could have found Plan B two or three days ago to be disappointing.”
Garmond’s reply to Doeren In a statement posted on Twitter,.
“With today’s COVID results, our medical staff have deemed it unsafe for us to compete this evening,” Garmond wrote. “While we faced the isolated COVID challenges, we were still in a position to compete even today.
“I’m really disappointed for everyone involved in the game.”
Bowl Season CEO Nick Carparelli said in a text message to ESPN that the Bruins’ cancellation was due to COVID-19 protocols.
“The UCLA statement makes it very clear that their inability to play was due to established protocols and not to the virus itself,” Carparelli said. “I feel bad for both teams as well as the wonderful people at the Holiday Bowl who have worked so hard all year for this day. It remains a very sad and frustrating situation.”
Corrigan said NC State has been in contact with several teams about playing a game, but did not say when or where that might be.
“I don’t want this to diminish what happened here this year,” Doreen said. “This was an unfair thing, and like all other unfair things, there would be no logical reason to make him feel good. We’ll have to deal with it and prepare for what’s to come.”
The Holiday Bowl is the fifth bowl game to be canceled due to COVID-19 issues with at least one of the participating teams, and joins the Arizona Bowl, Hawaii’i Bowl, Fenway Bowl and Military Bowl.
ESPN’s Andrea Adelson and Heather Dinich contributed to this report.