With Miami Out, Sun Bowl Attempts to Find a Fill-In Team
For a second consecutive year, the annual Sun Bowl contest might not be played due to COVID-19.
The local sports scene was rocked with the loss of Miami to the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl, as the Hurricanes withdrew due to COVID-19 issues within their locker room. The news came just hours after Washington State touched down in El Paso.
Now, with less than five days until kickoff on Dec. 31, the Sun Bowl is scrambling to find a replacement team for Miami.
"It is very disappointing that COVID is taking a toll on so many college football teams and bowl games," bowl executive director Bernie Olivas said in a statement. "As of this moment, the 2021 Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl game has not been cancelled, although the University of Miami has withdrawn from the game. We are currently looking for a possible replacement-team, in the hopes of having one to compete against Washington State."
Miami Athletic Director and Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Strawley revealed in a statement that Miami simply wouldn't have a roster to safely play in the Sun Bowl. They delayed their arrival until Thursday, Dec. 30, but on Sunday, they made the decision to pull out completely.
"We are extremely disappointed that our football team will be unable to participate in the 2021 Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl," Strawley said in a statement. "This team worked hard all season to earn a bowl invitation and my heart goes out to our student-athletes, especially our seniors. I also want to thank interim head coach Jess Simpson and our football staff for all of their efforts in preparation for this bowl game. We regret the impact this has on the Washington State program and their postseason experience. I want to commend the Sun Bowl Association for their tireless work in helping us navigate this situation over the past several days. We are grateful for their support as an Atlantic Coast Conference bowl partner."
There have already been several options for the game, but they have been met with some roadblocks. Per Brett McMurphy, the Sun Bowl can't take Memphis, SMU or East Carolina, which each had canceled bowl games. He also reported that Marshall offered to play, but the Thundering Herd isn't able to qualify.
And if you were wondering, UTEP is out of the picture to come to the Sun Bowl. They wrapped their season up with a loss to Fresno State in the New Mexico Bowl (31-24). Plus, the Miners have already had a pair of wide receivers enter the transfer portal in Jacob Cowing and Tyrin Smith.
For now, Washington State will remain in El Paso as they seek an opponent. Head coach Jacob Dickert tweeted out that his team is hungry to play anybody at the Sun Bowl.
Miami is the third ACC team to be unable to play its bowl game, joining Boston College (Military Bowl) and Virginia (Fenway Bowl).