Utah-Fresno State lawsuit over canceled men’s basketball game dismissed; teams will play during 2021-22 season

Utah had filed suit against Fresno State in Third District Judicial Court on Nov. 12

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Mark Harlan talks about his first week on the job as Athletic Director at the University of Utah in his new office at the Huntsman Center, Friday, June 29, 2018.

A lawsuit filed by the University of Utah in November against Fresno State in relation to a canceled men’s basketball didn’t go very far.

Utah’s attorneys for the case, Stephen K. Christiansen and Heidi K. Gordon from Salt Lake City-based Christiansen Law, filed a notice of dismissal in Third Judicial District Court on Dec. 17. That notice of dismissal made clear that Fresno State did not serve an answer of a motion for summary judgement.

“The two schools mutually resolved their differences that led to the suit,” Christiansen told The Salt Lake Tribune in a text message. “Part of the understanding was that the suit would be dismissed.”

In a broad phone interview with The Tribune earlier this month, Utah athletic director Mark Harlan confirmed that the sides did come to a resolution, and that the Utes will host the Bulldogs at the Huntsman Center next season. That makes two confirmed non-conference basketball games for the 2021-22 season. Utah was already set to host BYU on a to-be-determined date, the second contest of the current four-game agreement between the forever in-state rivals.

In the lawsuit, filed in Third Judicial District Court on Nov. 12, Utah, citing the “uncontrollable forces” section of the game contract, was allowed to cancel a game against Fresno State that was scheduled for Dec. 19 at the Huntsman Center. Under the terms contract terms, Fresno State was to be paid $90,000, plus two nights lodging that included 16 hotel rooms. Fresno State contended that “uncontrollable forces” did not apply, and, per the “liquidated damages” section of the contract, was instead owed $200,000.

The Fresno State game, agreed to on April 17 and signed off on by both sides shortly thereafter, was one of five non-conference games Utah lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. Of those five, four were to take place at the Huntsman Center as guarantee games, including Fresno State.

Harlan indicated that the intention is to try and get the lost games against Cal Poly, Cal State Fullerton, Fresno State and Rice played, potentially as early as next season. A sixth lost non-conference game, the original Nov. 10 season-opener vs. Utah Valley, was rescheduled for Dec. 15 at a reduced guarantee figure. Instead of the originally agreed-upon $80,000, the Wolverines signed on for $40,000.

An athletic department spokesman told The Tribune Monday that all of those unplayed guarantee games were technically canceled, not postponed, but all that means is everyone will have to renegotiate dates and monetary figures for next season or beyond.

On the subject of game contracts, as expected, Utah is in the process of finalizing rescheduled non-conference football games that were lost in 2020 vs. BYU, vs. Montana State, and trip to Laramie to face Wyoming.

The earliest the Utah-BYU game could be made up is 2029, but the series will continue as scheduled this fall with the Utes going to Provo on Sept. 11. The two sides are currently slated to play six times over the next eight seasons.

“We’re hoping to put it on the backside,” Harlan said. [BYU athletic director] Tom [Holmoe] and I have to work on that, but the intention of the institutions is to just add that on as a continuation of our scheduled games. It would make sense to do so, and Tom and I will work that out in the appropriate time.”