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COVID-19 Puts The Kibosh On Military, Fenway Bowls

Ross Everett
by in NCAAF on
  • The Military Bowl and Fenway Bowl have been cancelled due to COVID-19 issues among participating teams.
  • Virginia was scheduled to face SMU at Boston’s Fenway Park but wasn’t able to play due to multiple COVID-19 positives.
  • The Military Bowl in Annapolis, Maryland was supposed to feature a matchup between Boston College and East Carolina.

Unfortunately, the iconic Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl isn’t the only college football bowl game impacted by the latest COVID-19 uptick. Earlier today, the announcement was made that two other dubious pre-New Year’s bowl games had been cancelled due to COVID protocol issues among the competing teams. The Fenway Bowl (Virginia vs. SMU) and the Military Bowl (Boston College and East Carolina) have both been cancelled. Tickets purchased for the Military Bowl can be ‘donated’ or refunded. As of this writing, the Fenway Bowl website hasn’t been updated with news of the cancellation or ducat refund information.

The Military Bowl was cancelled due to COVID-19 issues within the Boston College football program. Sadly, even though the announcement of the cancellation has been posted on the BC Athletics website whomever was in charge of it didn’t get the memo that they should take down the ‘countdown clock’ to the game:

According to a statement on the BC Athletics website, the Eagles’ football team had a whopping 40 plus players unavailable to play in the Military Bowl due to the COVID-19 resurgence. William V. Campbell Director of Athletics Pat Kraft had these comments about the unfortunate situation:

“Unfortunately, due to cases of COVID-19 rising within our program since our arrival, along with season-ending injuries, opt outs and transfers, we just do not have enough players to field a team. We are disappointed not to be able to finish the season together as a team, but the health and safety of our program is our highest priority. Steve Beck and his Military Bowl staff put on a great week for our team and we are thankful for everything they did to make us feel at home during our stay in Washington, D.C.”

BTW, do we *have* to include the game of the guy who has endowed the AD’s position every time he’s quoted? How about just calling him the ‘athletic director’. I’m sure Mr. Campbell (who sadly passed away in 2016) would understand. BC head football coach Jeff Hafley had the obvious comment that this isn’t how the team wanted to end the season:

“This is not the way we wanted to see this season come to an end. We just do not have enough players to safely play a game. My heart goes out to our seniors who will not have one final opportunity to wear a BC jersey and I can’t thank them enough for all the contributions they made to our program.”

Wouldn’t it be strange if this was *exactly* how the team wanted the season to end? Like at the very top of the ‘Team Goals’ board:

  1. Abruptly withdraw from lower tier bowl game due to COVID-19.
  2. Finish regular season 6-6.
  3. Go 2-6 the rest of the way after stepping up in class to face teams like Clemson and Wake Forest.
  4. Open the season going 4-0 against mostly over-matched opponents.

Here’s what East Carolina head coach Mike Houston had to say about the cancellation:

“This is painful to digest. I’m hurting for the young men representing our football program. We are crushed that we can’t compete on Monday and allow our seniors one final opportunity to wear the Pirates uniform. Everybody involved with our program has persevered through adversity over the past two years during this pandemic, so it was extremely difficult to tell them the 2021 season is complete. This is a special group of young men who will be remembered for their hard work, sacrifice and determination to restore the prominence of our football program.”

As for the Fenway Bowl, it was cancelled due to the withdrawal of the University of Virginia football team due to COVID-19 issues. Lest we forget, this was supposed to be outgoing head coach Bronco Mendenhall’s final game. Could lack of interest in preparing for the bowl game have been at least part of the reason for the cancellation? Compared to Boston College’s ‘more than forty players’ diagnosis the situation at UVA sounds pretty vague:

In the days leading up to the team’s planned departure date (Dec. 25), some UVA players displayed symptoms associated with COVID-19 and subsequently tested positive for the virus. As a result, the entire team was tested Christmas morning. The completed test results, provided to Virginia athletics on Sunday morning (Dec. 26), revealed additional positive tests that prevent the team from safely participating in the game.

Virginia athletics director Carla Williams gave this redundant statement where she says that it’s ‘unfortunate’ that the team won’t be able to play in the Fenway Bowl twice in the span of two paragraphs:

“We are extremely disappointed the team will not be able to participate in the inaugural Fenway Bowl. Playing this game was something our team very much looked forward to and it is unfortunate Coach Mendenhall will not have one last opportunity to coach this group.”

“We want to thank the Fenway Bowl and its staff for their preparation to host the game and for their communication with us over the past few days. We appreciate all of the hard work by our team and coaching staff. They earned this bowl invitation, and it is unfortunate they will not be able to compete in the game to complete the season. We regret how this also impacts our fans who were planning on attending the game as well as the SMU program and its fans.”

How much ‘disappointment’, ‘misfortune’ and ‘regret’ can one person handle? SMU Athletic Director Rick Hart also brought the disappointment but at least he had the decency to give a ‘get well soon’ message to the UVA players stricken with COVID:

“I’m disappointed for our fans, and even more disappointed for our players, that we will be unable to play in a bowl game for the second straight season. We are, however, sympathetic to Virginia’s situation, having had to withdraw from our bowl last season due to COVID. We hope those impacted get well soon.”

“I want to congratulate our players and staff on their outstanding season and I want to thank Coach Leavitt and the other coaches and staff for their efforts over the past few weeks in keeping the focus on our players and their student-athlete experience.”

“Finally, I want to offer a special thank you to our seniors, who unfortunately played their final collegiate games not knowing at the time that it was their last time wearing an SMU uniform. This group went 25-10 over the past three seasons, tying for the most wins by an FBS team in Texas, with three straight bowl berths. These student-athletes ushered in a new era of Mustang Football, and we all owe them a great debt of gratitude.”

So far this bowl season there have been five teams forced to withdraw due to COVID related issues and three bowls cancelled outright (pending the resolution of the Sun Bowl’s status). In addition to Miami, Boston College and Virginia’s withdrawals on Sunday, Hawaii was forced to withdraw from the Hawaii Bowl which had to be cancelled. Texas A&M withdrew from the Gator Bowl but Rutugers will take the Aggies place in the game. Last year, a total of 18 bowl games were cancelled due to COVID related issues.

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