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#pounditTuesday, February 7, 2023

Reason UCLA withdrew from bowl game revealed

Martin Jarmond on the field

UCLA has drawn heavy criticism for pulling out of the Holiday Bowl just hours before the scheduled kickoff, and we now know the supposed reason for the decision.

UCLA said in a statement that they were advised by medical staff that having players participate in the game would be “unsafe” based on COVID protocols. One source close to the situation told Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times that the Bruins decided to back out after a number of players tested positive for COVID-19 the morning of the game. Other players supposedly would have been forced to play out of position, and UCLA felt that would leave those players at an increased risk of injury.

Bolch notes that UCLA was particularly thin at defensive line, with several players injured and a couple of others posting on social media Tuesday that they would not be able to play in the bowl game.

That excuse is not going to stop people from ripping UCLA. Plenty of professional and collegiate sports teams have managed to overcome players being on the COVID-19 list. We’re more likely to believe that UCLA didn’t want to fight through a tough game, not that they were concerned about players getting injured while playing “out of position.”

Regardless of why UCLA pulled out, the lack of communication leading up to the decision was unacceptable. Their opponent, NC State, was given no indication that UCLA was even considering withdrawing. A new detail that emerged on Wednesday made UCLA look even worse.

It was predictable that UCLA would say COVID issues the day of the game led to the abrupt withdrawal, but that isn’t going to take the heat off the program. The optics of the situation are terrible, especially when you look at all the tourist activities the Bruins took part in leading up to the game.

Photo: Oct 23, 2021; Pasadena, California, USA; UCLA Bruins athletic director Martin Jarmond reacts during the game against the Oregon Ducks at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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