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Utah, Fresno State Go to Court Over Canceled Game

Brock Fritz

The University of Utah has filed a lawsuit stating it doesn’t owe Fresno State money after canceling a 2020-21 college men’s basketball game due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to The Salt Lake Tribune, Utah filed the lawsuit Thursday in Third Judicial District Court in Utah. The university said that the game, which was scheduled for Dec. 19 at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, was legally canceled through the “uncontrollable forces” section of the game contract. Utah athletic director Mark Harlan emailed Fresno State athletic director Terry Tumey on Nov. 5 stating his intention to cancel the game due to the COVID-19 pandemic limiting the number of nonconference games each team can play this season.

“As you know, I have attempted to negotiate an informal resolution of this issue with you, which would include compensation and lodging to Fresno State now or a postponement of the game at Utah to a future year,” Harlan’s email read in part, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. “Despite the fact that institutions throughout the country are making similar arrangements in a cooperative manner as we face this pandemic, you have declined the University’s incredibly reasonable proposal. I am very disappointed with your decision. Since we cannot agree to a postponement of the game, we are exercising our right to simply cancel the game.”

According to The Fresno Bee, Fresno State is seeking $200,000 for the cancellation. Tumey has said that the fact that Utah is willing to reschedule the game means that there was no reason to cancel.

“You’ve stated that the University of Utah is willing to host Fresno State for a significantly reduced financial arrangement, which further supports that the game is available for play by both parties,” Tumey said, according to The Fresno Bee. “To my knowledge, COVID-19 has not barred college basketball games from being played in the state of Utah so it does not meet the standard of (the uncontrollable forces clause of the contract). Similarly, you cite conference limitations on non-conference games, but the limit is not an uncontrollable factor to the University of Utah if it can pick and choose which non-conference games to play.

“A change in gate receipts is also not barring the ability to play the game and hence does not constitute an uncontrollable force.”

The game contract, which was signed by Harlan and Tumey last spring, stipulated that Utah would pay Fresno State $90,000 plus two nights lodging. Utah originally owed $455,000 to five nonconference opponents. The Utes’ games against Cal Poly, Cal State Fullerton and Rice have been moved to different seasons, while Utah and Utah Valley renegotiated their terms and Utah Valley will be paid $40,000 when they play this season.

“Fresno State, in contrast, has declined to reschedule or renegotiate on reasonable terms,” the Utah lawsuit reads. “Consequently, the University (of Utah) determined to exercise its right under the Agreement to cancel the Game.”

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