Ohio State’s trip to Eugene to face the Oregon Ducks this fall is already going to be at least a little different than expected.
Thursday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced that the state was advising that all large events, including college sports, would not be able to return with crowds until at least the end of September. With the Buckeyes and Ducks scheduled to play on September 12, that’s a big deal.
With four months to go until that game is set to kick off, one of the most anticipated machups on the 2020 schedule could play out in several different ways. It could still go on, but in front of a small crowd or no crowd at all. It could also be delayed, canceled, or moved to another location.
One popular thought making the rounds on social media was to move to the game to the new Raiders’ stadium in Las Vegas. Others suggested moving the game to Columbus.
While a lot is still up in the air, the contract signed by the two schools for the home-and-home series does provide a framework on what to expect. It was obtained by TheOzone through a Freedom Of Information Act request.
You can click here to read along at home if you’re interested: Oregon – Game Contract [2020-2021]
The clause of the contract that covers unusual circumstances like [gestures vaguely toward everything happening right now] is called Force Majeure. It’s No. 12 in the Oregon/Ohio State contract and reads:
“A game shall be canceled if it becomes impossible to play the game by reason of bad weather; an unforeseen catastrophe or disaster such as fire, flood, earthquake, terrorist act, or act of political sabotage, war, or confiscation; any order of government, military, or public authority; or any prohibitory of injunctive order or any competent judicial or other governmental authority, civil or military. In such case, neither party shall be responsible to the other for any loss or damage. Cancellation of a game under this section shall not be deemed a breach of this Contract. Notice of the need to cancel a game shall be given as soon as possible, and the parties shall proceed to discuss any possible resolutions. Except as agreed by the parties, no such cancellation shall affect the parties’ obligations regarding subsequent games covered by this Agreement.”
In case you are not a law-talkin’ guy, an attorney who reviewed the contract for TheOzone explained it this way: “If the government issues an order that makes it impossible to play, or orders that the game not be played, then the game ‘shall be canceled,’ i.e., it’s not optional.”
What happens if the game isn’t ordered canceled, but would be played in front of an empty or only partly-full stadium? Based on the ruling from Oregon this week, that sounds like it could be the best-case scenario now.
There the contract isn’t quite as clear. The Ducks could argue that it would be “impossible” to play in that case, but that would be a tricky argument, and not necessarily likely to succeed. Given the amount of TV money on the line, it seems unlikely that the game would get totally scrapped based solely on a lack of fans.
Note that the Force Majeure clause above states that “the parties shall proceed to discuss any possible resolutions.” That’s where the idea that the game might be moved to a neutral site could come in.
If they can’t play in Eugene, both sides are expected to talk about ways to make things work. They’re also free to change anything in the existing contract if they both agree to it.
Under the existing agreement, if this year’s game is canceled, it would not impact the teams’ 2021 date in Columbus. The programs would also not be under any legal obligation to reschedule the Eugene half of the home-and-home, but could if both sides agreed to do so.
[Header photo courtesy: Oregon Football]