By Matthew Rodriguez
With temperatures below freezing and as snow flurried around his home, David Eads and his family huddled around the TV every New Year’s Day to catch a glimpse of the sunshine.
“As a kid growing up (I’d) watch the Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl Game with my parents and my family,” Eads said. “You’d watch on television, this beautiful place with this amazing parade with these floral floats and this football game in this pristine (and) iconic Rose Bowl stadium with the San Gabriel mountains in the background. As a kid, I thought maybe one day, I’ll get to go see that.”
Never in his life has the iconic game been played outside of Pasadena — until this year.
Eads, now the Tournament of Roses CEO, decided to move the iconic Rose Bowl Game outside of Pasadena to Arlington, Texas, at the behest of the College Football Playoffs organization.
The controversial move fractured the century-old relationship between the City of Pasadena and the Tournament of Roses. Although the Tournament paid the city $2 million for the move, officials became concerned that the Rose Bowl Game may leave Pasadena again and maybe for good and engaged in a debate for the naming rights of the Rose Bowl Game started.
On Feb. 4, after negotiations came to a stalemate, the Tournament of Roses filed a federal lawsuit to protect its trademarks of the Rose Bowl Game and other related trademarks from the city.
“We’re not suing the city for monetary damages,” Eads said. “We’re only seeking clarification and confirmation of ownership of the Rose Bowl Game trademarks, related marks and the usage of those marks.”
In response, the city issued a statement describing the lawsuit as egregious and contentious.
“The city is disappointed that its long-time partner, the Tournament of Roses, has chosen this divisive path,” the city wrote. “The city council is resolute and has vowed to vigorously defend the city’s position.”
“It is unexpected and unfortunate that our partner for nearly a century has chosen this route,” Mayor Victor Gordo added in the statement.
Gordo and the city could not be reached for further comment on the lawsuit.
Required by the Master License Agreement, Pasadena and the Tournament of Roses has worked together to host the Rose Bowl Game in the iconic Rose Bowl Stadium for over a century. However, the MLA has a clause that allows the Tournament of Roses to move the game without consulting the City. The “force majeure” clause may be enacted if any unforeseeable circumstances such as an earthquake or any other “acts of God.” The only other time the game was not played in Pasadena was during WWII right after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
According to Eads, the goal of the Tournament of Roses was to hold the game in Pasadena.
It was not until the CFP enacted the force majeure clause that the Tournament of Roses decided to move the game.
Eads claimed the force majeure clauses were enacted after COVID-19 cases skyrocketed in Southern California and appeals for fans at the stadium failed.
At the time, Los Angeles became the epicenter of the pandemic, as cases increased nearly 900% and ICUs were well over capacity. Concerns over the well-being of the athletes grew after hospitals could not guarantee injured players would receive treatment.
“If you look back at what was happening with the COVID spread, Southern California became the epicenter. ICUs were overflowing,” Eads said. “Huntington Hospital said ‘We cannot guarantee that we would be able to treat anybody that might be injured in the Rose Bowl Game, because we were over capacity. We can’t guarantee their safety.”
In addition to the surge, multiple appeals to allow friends and family to attend the game were denied by the state which further exacerbated the situation.
“The CFP declared force majeure and when they declared force majeure that gave them the rights to make the decision to move the game,” Eads said. “It was not our decision to move the game. Up until the (Dec. 19) our goal was to host the Rose Bowl Game at the Rose Bowl Stadium.”
The city argues that this was not a correct application of the force majeure clause. After numerous UCLA home games were held at the stadium, the city claimed that the games served as an example the Rose Bowl Game did not have to be moved.
Eads disagreed claiming that regular-season PAC-12 conference games drastically differed from a playoff game.
According to Eads, The Rose Bowl Game required two out-of-state teams, Notre Dame and Alabama, whose rosters would exceed 100 players each to travel across the country and stay in the region for several days for training and eventually the game.
“You’re comparing apples and oranges,” said Eads. “It’s not the same thing as a UCLA home game.”
Eads hopes the lawsuit will straighten any misunderstanding over the Rose Bowl naming rights and pledges to continue to work with Pasadena on the future Rose Bowl games.
“I’ve said it multiple times, we have no plans or desire to ever move this game again,” said Eads. “Pasadena is our home. We’re based in Pasadena. This game has been played here for 105 out of 107 years.
“We will get past this and we will move on. We are committed to Pasadena and I will say that over and over again. We are Pasadena, the Tournament of Roses is Pasadena.”