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What is “force majeure” and what does it mean to UB

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Ohio State Buckeyes v Buffalo Bulls 8-31-2013

Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer, not even close....

So the UB vs Ohio State game is cancelled and while I don’t have the contract for this game, I do have a lot of past contracts between UB and Big Ten schools and they all include two things.

One, that if either party calls off the game they are liable for some or all of the revenue lost by the other party

Two, an exception to one know as “force majeure

Force majeure is a common clause in contracts that essentially frees both parties from liability or obligation when an extraordinary event or circumstance beyond the control of the parties, such as a war, strike, riot, crime, epidemic or an event described by the legal term act of God, prevents one or both parties from fulfilling their obligations under the contract. In practice, most force majeure clauses do not excuse a party’s non-performance entirely, but only suspend it for the duration of the force majeure —wiki

With the Big10, ACC, PAC10 and others cancelling non conference games this year you can bet they will be leaning heavily on “Force Majeure” as a way to not honor the contact in any way.

The huge check UB was due to get from Ohio State this year was roughly 5% of the departments annual budget. And this was before the NCAA tournament unit payouts came in as a pittance of what was expected.

On the surface covid is a no brainer Force Majeur, right?

Wrong....

Like most things “law” there is wiggle room and interpretation for every situation.

Take the example of a game between Miami and Arkansas State in 2017 that was cancelled due to Hurricane Irma. A hurricane is, for obvious reasons, generally accepted as a valid reason to cancel a game, contract or not. The problem was that the game was scheduled to be played in Jonesboro, Arkansas, which was not under the threat of a hurricane. Miami’s reason for backing out of the game was that they might have difficulty returning to Miami due to the storm. Arkansas State wasn’t having it, and ended up suing Miami for breach of contract, though they settled out of court. — Anchors of Gold

There is no way of knowing who would have won that suit but if a hurricane is not enough to protect the Hurricanes, then clearly it’s not as simple as the B1G saying “Covid” and getting out of millions of dollars of guarantee contracts.

The issue is that as a general rule these clauses only apply if the game is literally unplayable.

If Ohio State is able to play home games against Rugters why can they not play at home against Buffalo. Clearly both teams have to come in from another state, to Ohio, play a game, and then leave.

There is no substantial difference in the risk of either game.

And here’s an even sillier example. How is playing Rutgers more risky than having The Falcons come to town? Bowling Green is in the same state...

The only thing Ohio State can say is “Our conference has forbid us from playing these games”, then again how did Ohio State’s representative in the B1G vote when it came to no out of conference games.

IF there is college football this season, and that’s a big IF at this point, you’re going to see a lot of G5s push for some measure of compensation from these games. That could come in the form of future games and slight compensation, multiple games, or pure cash money.

Because lawsuits cost money you’re going to see a lot of settlements. So long as there is football this year the G5s who are on the short end of these cancellations have the high ground in these negations.