MISSOULA — The Montana men’s basketball game against UCLA scheduled for 9 p.m. Wednesday in Los Angeles was canceled because of concerns arising from nearby wildfires in Southern California, according to a UCLA statement.
"The health and safety of student-athletes, staff and fans is our top priority," the statement read. "Due to concerns stemming from area wildfires, tonight's men's basketball game versus Montana has been canceled. All other team workouts and practices scheduled for today also have been canceled."
There were multiple wildfires that broke out in the morning, including the Skirball fire just miles northwest of Pauley Pavilion. Parts of the 405 Freeway were shut down in the early morning.
Griz head coach Travis DeCuire said in a text message that all players, coaches and staff who traveled with the team to Los Angeles are safe and accounted for.
"No fire near us," DeCuire wrote. "We can't even smell smoke."
Montana athletic director Kent Haslam told 406mtsports.com in a phone call Wednesday night that he hasn't yet had a chance to work on trying to reschedule the game. The Griz were already scheduled to leave Thursday morning as they continue their road trip against Georgia State noon Saturday in Atlanta, Haslam said.
UCLA agreed to pay Montana $85,000 by April 1 for playing the game, according to the game contract signed on Jan. 4, 2017, and obtained by 406mtsports.com via a public records request. However, a clause in the contract nullifies that payment if the game is canceled because of "acts of God" or "fires," among other reasons. But, that clause may not apply since it appears UCLA cited public safety concerns for canceling the game — "concerns stemming from area wildfires" — not an actual fire or act of God.
Even though the game was canceled, the Houston Rockets and Minnesota Timberwolves still practiced at UCLA on Wednesday, the Houston Chronicle reported.
"I don't know enough to have a definitive statement right now," Haslam said regarding if Montana will still be paid the $85,000. "We'll try and resolve this and figure out what we do next. We build some flexibility into our budget.
"We'll figure this out moving forward. First and foremost, we wanted to make sure everyone is safe and we're getting them on their way."
It's believed that the last time the basketball team had a game canceled was Dec. 22, 2008, against Utah Valley. The Griz were stranded in the Portland area because "overnight freezing rain left a layer of ice on snow that had already fallen," the Missoulian reported. They had lost, 72-45, to Portland State on Saturday and couldn't make it to Missoula to host the game Monday night.
Fans who purchased single-game tickets for the game between Montana and UCLA will be “automatically refunded,” according to UCLA’s statement.