As the year’s end approaches, more college football teams are dropping out of upcoming bowl games due to COVID-19.
Five matchups have so far been scrapped altogether. In contrast, two others now have different participating schools than was originally involved – this marks the second year in a row that bowl games have been canceled or changed because of the pandemic.
UCLA upset fans with the news that it was pulling out of tonight’s Holiday Bowl made just hours before the start of the game. Its Bruins football team was scheduled to play against the NC State Wolfpack in San Diego, but the school’s statement intimates that UCLA likely didn’t follow proper COVID-19 procedure.
“Felt lied to, to be honest,” NC State coach Dave Doeren told reporters about how he found out. “We felt like UCLA probably knew something was going on, didn’t tell anybody on our side. We had no clue they were up against that. I don’t feel like it was very well handled by their university. It would have been great to have had a heads up so two or three days ago we could have found a Plan B. Disappointing.”
Boise State Athletics shut down operations for the remainder of its year. On Monday, they bowed out of the Arizona Bowl to be played versus the Central Michigan Chippewas on New Year’s Eve, and the game will not be rescheduled.
“We feel for the young men in our program who were very much looking forward to closing out their season, and for some, their football careers,” said Boise State Director of Athletics Jeramiah Dickey in a statement. “I would personally like to thank Kym Adair and her team at the Arizona Bowl for putting together a first-class student-athlete and fan experience that we are extremely disappointed to miss.”
Instead, the Chippewas will now face off against the Washington State Cougars in the Sun Bowl. Central Michigan is coming to the rescue of the Sun Bowl as a replacement for the Miami Hurricanes. Jennifer Strawley, the Miami Univ. deputy director of athletics, said her team was “extremely disappointed” about the situation, but “the health and safety of our student-athletes will always be our top priority.”
These changes mirror the canceled Hawai’i Bowl, which was supposed to take place on Christmas Eve. But the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors were depleted thanks to the virus and withdrew from their bout with the Memphis Tigers 24 hours prior to kickoff.
However, Tigers coach Ryan Silverfield made it clear he wasn’t leaving his bowl experience empty-handed. “I’m sad for [the Rainbow Warriors],” he said on December 24. “Our players are ready, they prepared, they worked hard. They did everything right. The way they behaved, their actions this week at the bowl game reflect that… But we are bowl champions, and that’s one thing I told them. It’s most important that we go home with this trophy, and rightfully so.”
The Military Bowl, scheduled between Boston College and East Carolina University for December 27, was also done away with since the BC roster was too thin. “This is not the way we wanted to see this season come to an end,” said Boston College head football coach Jeff Haley. “We just do not have enough players to safely play a game.”
This year’s inaugural Wasabi Fenway Bowl was the fourth bowl game to be outright canceled and will have to wait one more year for its debut as well. The Virginia Cavaliers were supposed to head to Beantown and square off Southern Methodist University Mustangs tomorrow. But a number of Cavs players showed symptoms of COVID-19 infection, and the game had to be called off.
Photo: Icon Sportswire / Getty
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