College Football Bowl Games San Diego
Organizers canceled the 2020 Holiday Bowl, one of San Diego’s signature events, due to the pandemic. Photo credit: @HolidayBowl, via Facebook

Holiday Bowl officials said Thursday that the annual game will not be played in December due to the coronavirus.

The decision followed the unanimous vote of the San Diego Bowl Game Association board of directors.

“This has been the most difficult decision our Board has ever had to make since our bowl game started in 1978,” said Holiday Bowl CEO Mark Neville.  “While it’s not the decision we wanted to make, it’s the right decision for our non-profit association and the community for the long term.”

Over the last decade, organizers estimate the game generated an average of $31 million in economic benefit and more than 28,000 hotel room nights annually for the San Diego region.

The Holiday Bowl, scheduled for late December, typically gives San Diego a boost during the slowest tourism period of the year in the region.

“This decision was particularly difficult because our tourism industry has taken such a hit due to the pandemic,” Neville said.  “The virus has created a situation in that we wouldn’t be able to welcome fans, ultimately resulting in no tourism. Couple that with the financial and potential health risks of trying to play the game during this pandemic and it was clear this was the right decision for us.”

This year’s Holiday Bowl was to be the first of a new six-year cycle to match top teams from the Pac-12 and ACC. FOX Sports contracted to televise the game for the fourth straight year.

“With the support of our volunteers, sponsors, conferences and our broadcast partner, the game will return in 2021 stronger than ever and with unparalleled enthusiasm,” said 2020 Bowl Association President Dan Moore. “We are fortunate to have a strong relationship with our title sponsor SDCCU, FOX Sports, the ACC, the Pac-12 and many others. While we all share the disappointment with the decision, each has been understanding and very supportive.”

With the bowl’s cancellation, organizers also set aside the traditional Bowl Week events, including the nationally televised Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Parade.

The 2020 game would have been the 43rd Holiday Bowl. Since 1978, the association has generated nearly $1 billion in economic benefit for the region.

The board had not decided where or when the 2020 game would have been played following the closure of SDCCU Stadium.

Multiple sites are under consideration for the 2021 game, including Petco Park, Rick Schloss, the director of media relations for the bowl game association, told City News Service.

The Holiday Bowl is the fourth bowl game to be canceled this year. Others include the Bahamas Bowl, Hawaii Bowl and the Bay Area-based Redbox Bowl.

– Staff and wire reports