Rose Bowl's COVID-19 move to Texas leads to lawsuit over the rights to the game's name

The Tournament of Roses is suing the city of Pasadena over the rights to the Rose Bowl’s name.

The lawsuit stems from the game’s 2021 move to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Restrictions in California — along with the significant travel distance for Alabama and Notre Dame — led to the game getting moved to the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium on Jan. 1 for the first time since World War II.

The Tournament of Roses says in its suit that the city doesn’t have ownership of the Rose Bowl trademarks and comes as the group and the city have been negotiating about the ownership of the trademarks.

From the Los Angeles Times:

“Although the dispute originated in the move of this year’s game to Arlington, Texas, as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a move agreed to by the city, it has persisted through the city’s continued insistence that it is the co-owner of the marks and that its consent is necessary to invoke the MLA’s ‘force majeure’ clause,” read a Tournament of Roses statement released Thursday night. “While the Association has no plans or desire to move the game in the future ... it does need a court’s clarification of its contractual and ownership rights.”

The Rose Bowl has been the controlling force in the modern college football bowl system. When the playoff was implemented ahead of the 2014 season it was done with the understanding that the Rose Bowl would not move from its traditional 4 p.m. ET time slot on New Year’s Day. That move to make sure the sun would set against the San Gabriel Mountains during the second half of the game every New Year meant that the playoff would have to play semifinal games on other days when the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl were not semifinal sites.

Because the 2021 Rose Bowl was a playoff game between the No. 1 and eventual national champion Crimson Tide and the No. 4 Fighting Irish, the Rose Bowl is set to be a regular New Year’s Six bowl game for the next two seasons.

Before 2021, the only Rose Bowl to get moved was the 1942 Rose Bowl between Oregon State and Duke. That game was played in Durham, North Carolina, as it came less than a month after the Pearl Harbor attack and amid fears that the Pacific Coast was under threat.

The Rose Bowl Game logo is shown on the field at AT&T Stadium before the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game between Notre Dame and Alabama in Arlington, Texas, Friday, Jan. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Roger Steinman)
The 2021 Rose Bowl was played in Texas. (AP Photo/Roger Steinman)

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