- Boise State University has withdrawn from the 2021 Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl due to COVID-19 issues within the football program.
- A perfunctory effort was made to find a replacement team to face Central Michigan before the Arizona Bowl was cancelled.
- Central Michigan will now play Washington State in the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl.
Another day, another bowl game disrupted due to COVID-19. On Monday afternoon, the Boise State Broncos announced their withdrawal from the Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl due to an increase in COVID-19 cases within the football program. The Broncos were scheduled to face Central Michigan in Tucson, Arizona on New Years Eve. Organizers made a perfunctory effort to find a new opponent for the Chippewas before cancelling the game outright. Central Michigan will now face Washington State University in the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas on December 31. Washington State was left without an opponent after Miami withdrew from the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl due to a COVID outbreak. More about that situation here:
Apropos of a bizarre bowl season, the news of Boise State’s withdrawal was apparently first reported by Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy:
Props to Portnoy as he scooped everyone–even the Boise State Athletic Department who eventually posted this statement on Twitter:
Portnoy indicated that a new opponent for Central Michigan would be sought but that didn’t last long before the game was cancelled outright:
Portnoy was on top of things once again as he explained the math behind Central Michigan’s decision to head to El Paso to play Washington State in the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl:
As was the case with the University of Virginia on Sunday, the Boise State COVID situation couldn’t have been more vague. Boise State athletic director Jeramiah Dickey tells the Bronco Nation News website how hard it was to break the news to the football team:
“It’s not how you draw it up. It’s something that weighs heavily on me … but I felt it was the best decision for us based on the advisement of our health officials and doctors.
“Having to stand in front of the team and tell them they aren’t going to get to play their last game is something I’ll never forget. It’s emotional. I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut. I can’t imagine how those kids feel. It’s terrible.”
So no doubt COVID is running rampant through the Boise State locker room, right? That’s hard to say since the University’s explanation of the decision is ‘hella vague’. Here’s how Bronco Nation News (one of my favorite sources of Boise State info BTW) reported it:
The Broncos had been scheduled to depart for Tucson on Tuesday, but learned of positive COVID-19 cases within the program upon players and coaches returning to campus Sunday night following a three-day break for the holidays.
Boise State waited to receive additional test results on Monday morning before determining it would be unable to play in Friday’s game against Central Michigan. Dickey said once they hit a certain threshold of positive tests amongst symptomatic and unvaccinated individuals, they were forced to test the entire team. That’s when additional positives came back, forcing the cancellation.
You’ll recall that Boston College at least put a number on their positive tests, indicating that over 40 players had tested positive. All we know about Boise State there were an indeterminate number of COVID cases in the football program on Sunday. No one knew about them prior to Sunday–you’d think if you were a Broncos’ player or coach you might want to ‘drop a dime’ and let someone (say, the athletic director and/or head coach Andy Avalos) know. This unknown number of cases required that the entire team be retested after they hit a ‘certain (again, unquantified) threshold. Here’s AD Dickey again with more non-specific gibberish:
“We got to a point where health officials, advisors, doctors — it was uncomfortable. So it wasn’t just us not going to a bowl game, it was us shutting down all team activities and I don’t know for how long. We have to see how this plays out.”
What? Keep in mind that Boise State really didn’t want to play in the Arizona Bowl to begin with:
It’s the first year of a multi-year partnership between Barstool Sports and the Arizona Bowl. The game had the second pick among Mountain West teams behind the LA Bowl, and Avalos told reporters two weeks ago that the bowl wanted the Broncos all along. Sources said Boise State would have preferred to stay in the Potato Bowl and finish prior to Christmas, but the Broncos had no choice once the Arizona Bowl picked them. It was either play in the Arizona Bowl on Dec. 31, or not play in a bowl game.
BJ Rains from Bronco News Nation pressed Dickey for details. You’ll be shocked to learn that none were forthcoming–even in the most general terms:
Asked if the positive tests involved players, coaches and/or staff, Dickey declined to get into specifics, but said, “It impacted the overall football program.” When asked if it was a larger issue than just one position being unable to field enough guys, Dickey said, “correct. This was an overall COVID within the program issue and with how contagious the variant is, it just wasn’t a good situation.”
Maybe the Broncos *are* suffering from a rash of COVID cases but let’s say for the sake of argument they’re not and Dickey just used it as a subterfuge to bail on a bowl he didn’t want to go to in the first place. The vague and evasive statements and lack of specificity about whether it was players, staff or coaches–let alone how many–is exactly the kind of response you’d get from someone ‘making it up as they go along’.
At any rate, Boise State isn’t going to play in the Arizona Bowl for whatever reason. Bronco News Nation asked AD Dickey about the financial implications and got this rambling response:
“I don’t know yet. We’re still working through that process. That’s still to be determined. It’s something you obviously think about, but the decision was made on what’s best for our student-athletes and our program. I’ll figure out the financial impact and how we solve that moving forward.”
I’ll help Dickey here–the Arizona Bowl payout was around $400,000 USD meaning that Boise State forgoes a $200k payday. That’s not an insignificant sum in theory but in context of Boise State’s $50 million plus athletic budget it kind of is. Central Michigan is actually getting a big payday thanks to Boise State’s decision to withdraw–not sure exactly what their cut will be but the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl has a payout of around $4 million USD. Don’t think that Central Michigan and the MAC will get their hands on too much of the Pac-12’s bowl money:
Central Michigan and the MAC aren’t expected to receive the full payout from the Sun Bowl; parties from the schools, conferences and bowl committee were negotiating a payout throughout the day Monday. Financial terms weren’t immediately disclosed.
Boise State forgoes a couple hundred g’s for a bowl game they didn’t want to play in the first place, Central Michigan gets a big payday for taking Miami’s place in the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl and all is good. The financial hit goes to Barstool Sports and the Arizona Bowl committee as Dave Portnoy noted on Twitter:
There’s a big difference between passing on the bowl game revenue like Boise State has done and expending your own money to put the event together hoping to recoup these expenses down the road like the Arizona Bowl committee and Barstool Sports has done. No one wants a team playing in a bowl game if they’re suffering a severe COVID situation. That said, the bowl organizers and sponsors left holding the financial bag deserve at least some degree of transparency in terms of who is testing positive, how many and their overall significance (eg: position group, etc.). Dickey likely knows that the national media could care less about anything that goes on in the Mountain Time Zone meaning he just has to ‘spin’ the local media to cover his ass. Yet another example of the sleazy business of college sports.