Thank you for your attention to the troubles facing the Rose Bowl exposed by the COVID pandemic. My high school graduation was conducted in the Rose Bowl; I watched as PHS kept losing the Turkey Tussle there to John Muir. I have appreciated the football and soccer games there. And I have felt for decades that the Rose Bowl, like the Rose Parade, was a blessing and an icon of the civic spirit of Pasadena.
Hence I was startled to realize that this symbolic space has become possibly more of a commercial trademark serving the College Football Program than an inspiration to our residents. It appears that the trademark has been licensed as a corporate brand, now to Capital One, and that the Tournament of Roses contract with the College Football Program gave the College Football Program power to carry the famous New Year’s Day game from Pasadena to Texas, along with the trademark name.
The information available, albeit incomplete, suggests this: California recognized the public health risks of a substantial public gathering at the stadium and prohibited attendance at the contractually committed venue beyond the teams themselves. The College Football Program, allegedly pressured by the Notre Dame team, claimed that the possibly limited medical facilities at the Huntington Hospital allowed it to break its contractual obligation to play here, that this amounted to a catastrophic “Force Majeure” allowing refusal to play here. The Tournament, dependent upon the goodwill of the College Football Program, acquiesced, and authorized use of the Rose Bowl Game trademark, of great value to the television advertising revenues arising from the game, at a stadium in Texas. Apparently, Notre Dame, the College Football Program, and Texas did not care about the public health risks, and allowed thousands of fans to attend, and brought more money than if the game were played here.
Apparently, the City of Pasadena has a contract with the Tournament of Roses relating to the game, and, surprised by the deal, the City felt that the transfer of the name of the Rose Bowl Game to Texas breached that contract, so it threatened to enjoin the transfer, leading to negotiations resulting in the Settlement Agreement dated December 30, 2020, published in this paper a few days ago. The Tournament agreed to pay $2 million in three annual installments for the apparent breach and losses to the City of Pasadena, calling it a “gift” for unspecified reasons. The extended period to pay allows this to come from future operating revenues rather than from the Tournament’s endowment, shown on the Guide Star reports from the Tournament’s IRS 990 form, of over $38 million, while the City has had to take payments on the debt arising from Rose Bowl improvements of $11 million per year.
Our City Council has tried to keep better control of the trademark in the future. But the financial value of televised college football has become a major factor in managing the Rose Bowl, and the role of inspiration for civic spirit must contend with this force to maintain its significance. I would love to hear more from the Tournament of Roses Association and our City Council, on how this will be addressed.
Post Script: This letter was submitted before I became aware of a January 7 comment from the Tournament President to the members. I assume Pasadena Now will make this available. And that The Rose Bowl Game, as an event as well as a trademark, will continue to present our city to the world as the best place to be on New Year’s Days.
Got something to say, email Managing Editor André Coleman, at andrec@pasadenanowmagazine.